Healthier Lives May newsletter

3 May 2021

In this issue:

  • Empowering Pasifika youth to prevent prediabetes,
  • A national approach for type 2 diabetes could avoid amputations,
  • A Tiriti-led science-policy approach,
  • Governance opportunity for emerging Māori research leader,
  • 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize,
  • Research Findings: WellConnectedNZ,
  • Virtual forum strengthens collaboration.
PPYEP fono in Tokoroa.

Empowering Pasifika youth to prevent prediabetes

The Pasifika Prediabetes Youth Empowerment Programme (PPYEP) project explored whether youth leadership could be harnessed to reduce the prevalence of prediabetes in Pasifika communities.

The project had encouraging results, including weight loss and enhanced health literacy, and some of the youth leaders were inspired to develop their own health interventions.

PPYEP was led by Dr Ridvan (Riz) Tupai-Firestone from Massey University alongside two Pasifika community partners – South Waikato Pacific Island Community Services (SWPICS) in Tokoroa and The Fono in Auckland.  The co-design of the project was a highlight in itself.

Read more about the Pasifika Prediabetes Youth Empowerment Programme results.

Walking group on path.

A national approach to type 2 diabetes could avoid amputations

Each year around 2,000 lower limb amputations take place in New Zealand due to complications from diabetes.  A shocking fact highlighted in the recent report, The Economic and Social Cost of Type 2 Diabetes, is that around 600 of these amputations could be avoided if all District Health Boards (DHBs) provided foot screening and protection services at an optimal level, similar to that achieved in other countries (and by some DHBs in New Zealand).

The consequences of an amputation for an individual and their whānau are serious and far-reaching.  However, only 8% of New Zealand’s podiatry workforce is employed in the public health sector at the frontline of diabetes management.

The major reform of the New Zealand health system, recently announced by Minister of Health Hon Andrew Little, provides an opportunity to re-focus on the prevention of ill-health and equitable access to health services. Healthier Lives welcomes the reforms, which opens the way for a national approach to tackling type 2 diabetes and its complications.

Read more about the need for better podiatry services.

Reigniting awareness about the need for action

In partnership with others, Healthier Lives commissioned the report on the cost of type 2 diabetes to help reignite awareness about the urgent need for action at a national level.

Various groups welcomed the report’s release, including the Pasifika Medical Association, Te Ohu Rata ō Aotearoa (Māori Medical Practitioners Association) and the New Zealand Society for the Study of Diabetes.  More than 6 weeks since its launch at Parliament, the report continues to feature in the media and has sparked a national conversation.

A Tiriti-led science-policy approach

Te Putahitanga cover image.

A new report examining the interface between science and policymaking is calling for a policy approach enabled by, and responsive to, Te Tiriti o Waitangi and Mātauranga Māori.

Te Pūtahitanga: A Tiriti-led science-policy approach for Aotearoa New Zealand was written by Māori researchers working across the science sector including from Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, the Chief Science Advisor Forum, the Health Research Council and the National Science Challenges (Rauika Māngai).

In a recent opinion piece in The Spinoff, two of the report’s authors, Tahu Kukutai and Jacinta Ruru, wrote:

“The report interrogates, from an unapologetically Māori vantage point, how science and evidence shapes policymaking. It finds that the current approach marginalises Māori experts, knowledge and priorities, with adverse consequences for Māori and Aotearoa generally. It argues for a Tiriti-led approach that is equity focused, unrelenting in its drive for positive Māori outcomes, more ‘bottom up’ than ‘top down’, and that draws on Māori community knowledge and expertise in far more timely and connected ways.”

Download Te Pūtahitanga at

Karanga at Otakou marae.

Governance opportunity for emerging Māori research leader

We are pleased to announce an opportunity for emerging Māori research leaders to build leadership experience through a two-year internship on the Healthier Lives Governance Group and Kāhui Māori (GGKM).

One or two interns may be appointed.  Interns will gain a valuable insight into governance, working alongside the highly experienced members of the GGKM.  But equally, the GGKM welcomes the full participation of interns and the perspectives they will bring.

The GGKM meets 3-5 times a year.  Two meetings are held in Wellington and the others are held via Zoom.  All travel costs will be covered and a per diem will be paid for meeting attendance.

Because of the potential for conflict of interest, applicants should not be currently involved in research funded by Healthier Lives (and should not anticipate involvement in the near future) but should be active in research areas that are broadly relevant to the Challenge mission and strategy.

To express interest in this opportunity please email with a short statement of interest and details of your research interests and experience (half a page max) and attach a short form CV.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Friday 28 May.

2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize

Healthier Lives Deputy Director Andrew Sporle was part of Te Pūnaha Matatini team which recently won the 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize for its part in informing New Zealand’s COVID-19 strategy. The team worked with policymakers, putting an emphasis on communication and a transdisciplinary approach to science. Andrew worked with others in Te Pūnaha Matatini in the equity modelling and disinformation streams, helping with informing national and local responses to the pandemic.

Data modelling and experience from previous epidemics made it clear that Māori and Pasifika peoples would be more badly affected if the COVID-19 virus became established in Aotearoa, due to systemic racism, poor quality housing and prevalence of pre-existing conditions that increase risks from the virus. “The whole modelling team put an equity lens on their work almost immediately, it wasn’t an afterthought. Equity was at the front and centre of their response,” Andrew says. 

One of Healthier Lives’ three Deputy Directors, Andrew (Ngāti Apa, Rangitāne, Te Rarawa) is a social statistician and founding member of Te Mana Raraunga – the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, and Rauika Māngai – a cross-Challenge collaboration of Māori directors and co-directors. He has research interests in indigenous statistics, social inequities and their determinants, Māori responsiveness of research investment and the creation of public domain tools for accessing and applying existing data.

Read more about the prize here: 2020 Prime Minister’s Science Prize Winner PM Science Prizes

Research Findings: WellConnectedNZ

A research findings brief about the WellConnectedNZ project is now available.

WellConnectedNZ project team.

The aim of this research was to explore ways of helping people with long-term conditions live more active, socially connected lives.

Following hundreds of conversations with stakeholders, the research team identified some Pou Ārahi (guiding posts or key principles) to help healthcare providers move away from deficit-model discussions which don’t serve people with long-term conditions well.

The team found that there is a vibrant network of community activities in Christchurch but low awareness of the activities and how to connect with them.  Recognising that people don’t want technology to supplant face-to-face interactions, they created an interactive map to make opportunities for social connection in Christchurch more visible.

Download WellConnectedNZ research findings brief [PDF]

Opening ceremony at research forum.

Virtual forum strengthens collaboration

In March, the second China–New Zealand Non-Communicable Diseases Research Cooperation Forum brought researchers from both countries together.

The virtual forum was hosted from Beijing by the China National Centre for Biotechnology Development in conjunction with the New Zealand-China Non-Communicable Diseases Research Collaboration Centre.

Discussions focussed on collaborative research in three priority areas – brain science, cancer and modernisation of traditional Chinese medicine.  The forum strengthened existing collaborative relationships and helped make new connections, with exciting possibilities for current and future research.

Forum strengthens NZ-China non communicable diseases research collaborations University of Otago 

The New Zealand–China Non-Communicable Diseases Collaborative Research Centre (NCD CRCC) is a partnership of the three health and wellbeing National Science Challenges – A Better Start, Healthier Lives and Ageing Well.

In the news:

Report on equity shows the need to do things differently

Nina Scott.

The recent Rapua Te Ara Matua Equity Report published by the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) shows the stark inequities experienced by Māori and Pasifika in its area.

Dr Nina Scott (Director of Māori equity strategy and research at Waikato DHB, and Healthier Lives Science Leadership Team member) comments on the findings of this report in this Radio New Zealand article and interview.

Waikato DHB says it needs to accelerate its efforts to achieve health equity RadioNZ

Congratulations to:

Mana Tu project team.

The Mana Tū project team who are finalists for the Ministry of Health Equity award in the 2021 New Zealand Primary Healthcare Awards | He Tohu Mauri Ora.

Finalists – NZ Primary Healthcare Awards NZ Primary Healthcare Awards

Read more about the Mana Tū project.

View our 2019-24 Research Strategy

He Pikinga Waiora Research Findings Brief

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