Healthier Lives December newsletter

21 December 2020

In this issue:

  • Director’s message
  • Racism in health
  • Funding announcement: Pacific diabetes prevention
  • Research findings: Evaluation of a digital health programme

Director’s message

As a country we are reaping the rewards of our collective effort to keep Covid-19 out of our communities.  We need to harness a similar determination to acknowledge and overcome systemic racism.

Director Jim Mann
Director Jim Mann

Healthier Lives researchers have spoken out about racism in health.  Our Chair, Sir Jerry Mateparae, has opened up the conversation.  I encourage you to read two powerful articles by journalist Laura Walters which appeared in Newsroom this week.

Our final newsletter of 2020 includes the announcement of new research into a unique family-centred approach to diabetes prevention for Pacific communities as well as important new research findings from an evaluation of a digital health programme for self-management of diabetes.

This year we are more grateful than ever to be able to spend time with whānau over the holidays.  On behalf of the Healthier Lives team, meri kirihimete me te tau hou ki a koe me tō whānau hoki.

Racism in health

crowd photo

Racism in health has implications for everyone living in Aotearoa New Zealand. This issue has been raised in the media over the last week, with two articles in Newsroom featuring Healthier Lives Chair Sir Jerry Mateparae, Director Jim Mann and several Healthier Lives researchers.

Sir Jerry Mateparae ‘aghast’ at racism in health research Newsroom
Doctors still denying ‘undeniable’ racism Newsroom

Funding announcement: Pacific diabetes prevention

Riz Firestone profile picture
Dr Riz Firestone

Research to address type 2 diabetes in Pacific communities has been awarded nearly $550,000 by Healthier Lives.

Led by Dr Ridvan (Riz) Firestone, Massey University, the research team will include community researchers and work with Pacific communities to co-design a unique family-centred diabetes prevention programme.

Research findings: Evaluation of a digital health programme

Demands on New Zealand’s primary healthcare system are rapidly increasing. Digital self-management programmes are often recommended to support lifestyle changes towards better health.

Recently published findings from research undertaken through the Long-Term Conditions Partnership* show that digital health programmes need to be robustly evaluated before being rolled out.

*The New Zealand Ministry of Health, Health Research Council of New Zealand and Healthier Lives–He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge entered a three-way partnership in 2016 to invest in research aimed at improving long-term health conditions.

In the news:

Dr Nina Scott
Dr Nina Scott

Māori face inequity in cancer care

“Māori are generally diagnosed at a later stage, are 20 percent more likely to get cancer and are twice as likely to die of cancer,”

Dr Nina Scott (Chair of Hei Āhuru Mōwai), Healthier Lives Science Leadership Team, commented on the inequities Māori face in cancer care.

Inequity in cancer care at every turn for Māori Radio NZ

Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu
Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Changes to Health Star Ratings for fruit juice

Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu (University of Auckland), Healthier Lives deputy director, commented on new trans-Tasman rules that mean fruit juices will be judged on their natural sugar content when it comes to Health Star Ratings.

Pure fruit juice health rating to look at natural sugar content Radio NZ

Dietary remission of type 2 diabetes

Prof Mike Lean
Prof Mike Lean

Prof Mike Lean (University of Glasgow) spoke about the DiRECT study during a special online presentation for Diabetes Awareness month, which Healthier Lives is pleased to share with a NZ audience.

This UK study provides compelling new evidence that a dietary intervention designed to achieve significant weight loss can result in remission of type 2 diabetes and improvements in the function of the pancreas in the majority of those able to reach target weight loss.

Dietary Remission of Type 2 Diabetes YouTube (30m 51s)


Dr Nina Scott (Waikato DHB), Science Leadership Team member, who was awarded the Waikato District Health Board’s Medical Science Award. Nina was also nominated for the University of Waikato’s Vision Mātauranga Science Award.

Kudos for top Waikato DHB Maori health researcher Voxy

Nina was also awarded a project grant in the Health Research Council’s (HRC) recent 2020 COVID-19 Equity Response.

Dr Nina Scott, Waikato District Health Board
WHIRI: pandemic system redesign to maximise Māori health gains
24 months, $966,309
New studies put health equity at centre of COVID-19 pandemic response HRC

Recent publications

Signal V, McLeod M, Stanley J, Stairmand J, Sukumaran N, Thompson DM, Henderson K, Davies C, Krebs J, Dowell A, Grainger R, Sarfati D A Mobile- and Web-Based Health Intervention Program for Diabetes and Prediabetes Self-Management (BetaMe/Melon): Process Evaluation Following a Randomized Controlled Trial J Med Internet Res (2020) 22(12):e19150

Upcoming events

2021 Public Health Summer School
1-19 February 2021, University of Otago, Wellington

The 2021 Public Health Summer School is offering 12 new courses, as well as 12 of their most popular core courses. Courses vary from small group computer lab classes to interactive workshops and multi-speaker symposiums

View our 2019-24 Research Strategy

He Pikinga Waiora Research Findings Brief

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