Healthier Lives Newsletter May 2022

11 May 2022

In this issue:

  • Director’s message: Action on diabetes,
  • Exhibition: GENOME, science of life,
  • Funding announcement: New projects,
  • Project update: Manawataki Fatu Fatu Pacific advisory fono,
  • Honours: Healthier Lives leaders recognised.

Director’s message: Action on diabetes

Despite the omni-present COVID-19, diabetes has recently been on the agenda in a number of different forums.

We have been supporting our colleagues at Diabetes NZ who tirelessly campaign for funded glucose monitoring devices, to address the current inequity of access to these life-changing technologies, especially for those living with type 1 diabetes.

The untimely loss of 52-year old former All Black Va’aiga “Inga” Tuigamala in February this year is a stark reminder of the devastating impact of type 2 diabetes.

Inga had worked hard to combat his own diabetes, and collaborated with Alliance Health Plus to establish Project ODICE to inspire others to do the same.
As COVID-19 continues to have an impact around the world, we see research emerging on the links between this virus and diabetes. Just last month, The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology published research showing that those previously infected with COVID-19 were 40% more likely to develop diabetes. With New Zealand now reporting one million confirmed cases of COVID-19, we can sadly expect further increases in the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
It is timely then, that the Ministry of Health has initiated consultation on a Diabetes Action Plan. While still in the initial phases of its development, I hope that with constructive input from all the communities involved in diabetes care and prevention in Aotearoa New Zealand, we can be in the best possible position to tackle the challenges ahead.

Jim Mann
Director, Healthier Lives-He Oranga Hauora

Genome: Science of Life exhibition

If you happen to be in Dunedin this month, a visit to the Genome, Science of Life exhibition is highly recommended.

Genome Exhibition

Created by Tūhura Otago Museum in partnership with Genomics Aotearoa, the exhibition features fascinating examples of how genomic research touches our everyday lives. It runs from 2–27 May at Tūhura Otago Museum. 

“Genomics as a science has already changed our lives, but it is going to have even more impact in the near future”, said Genomics Aotearoa Director Professor Peter Dearden.

Healthier Lives is delighted that examples drawn from our Precision Medicine theme – research to equitably improve cancer monitoring and cardiovascular risk prediction – are showcased in this exhibition.

Genome: Science of Life exhibition Otago Museum

Funding Announcement: New projects

Healthier Lives is pleased to announce funding for two new projects. Both are being commissioned in two stages, enabling the second stage to build on what is learned in the first.

Supporting the health system to deliver equitable outcomes

An implementation science project which aims to help the New Zealand health system produce more equitable health outcomes is led by Professor Sue Crengle (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha) in partnership with Waitematā DHB.

Sue Crengle

In stage one, the research team looked at international best practice and worked closely with the project kāhui and community advisory group to create two tools:

  • an equity-focussed implementation science framework suitable for use in Aotearoa.
  • an ‘equity readiness assessment tool’ capable of gauging whether the design of a new health intervention is likely to improve equitable health outcomes or contribute to greater inequities.

Funding of $1.8 million has now been awarded for stage two of the project, bringing the total funding for this research to $2.8 million. In stage two, the research team will test the effectiveness of these tools with a lung cancer screening intervention being trialled at Waitematā, Auckland, Counties Manukau and Northland District Health Boards. This trial, jointly funded by the Health Research Council, Te Aho o Te Kahu (Cancer Control Agency) and Ministry of Health will separately test ethnicity weighting for risk prediction of lung cancer in Māori. If they prove to be effective, wider use of the framework and equity readiness assessment tool offers a more systematic approach to implementing equitable health interventions.

Read more

Research Implementation Network

Healthier Lives has awarded just over $80,000 for a co-design process exploring the idea of a network to facilitate the translation of research evidence into practice, with the goal of reducing health inequities for Māori and Pacific communities.

Researchers have previously created novel, evidence-based interventions to address non-communicable diseases and yet these research products haven’t always found their way to practice due to lack of awareness of them, lack of community engagement, and lack of resources.

This project, which is co-funded by the Ministry of Health, will investigate whether it is possible to create an infrastructure to help address these challenges and enhance engagement and partnership between communities, health providers and researchers.

The project is co-led by Professor John Oetzel (University of Waikato) Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu (University of Otago), Darrio Penetito-Hemara (Toi Tangata) and Akarere Henry (South Waikato Pacific Islands Community Services). 

Project update: Manawataki Fatu Fatu Pacific advisory fono

The Manawataki Fatu Fatu project, co-funded by Healthier Lives and the Heart Foundation, recently brought


together their Families and Pacific Advisory group for the first time. Hosted over Zoom, the fono provided a chance for introductions, an overview of the aims of the project and early feedback on the project’s progress.

Insights from our first Pacific advisory fono

Honours: Healthier Lives leaders recognised

Two Healthier Lives leaders were recognised in an investiture ceremony at Government House on 3 May 2022.

Sir Jim Mann

Professor Jim Mann was bestowed his Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) for services to health by Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Cindy Kiro, Governor-General of New Zealand.

Dr Jenny McMahon

Dr Jenny McMahon, the inaugural Chair of the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge board, was recognised for her work with the Red Cross by being made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

It seems very fitting that both these honours were conferred by a Governor-General with extensive experience in the public health sector, including being a previous Chief Executive of the Royal Society Te Apārangi.
We warmly congratulate both recipients.

In the news

Diabetes and me: Wrestling with the causes of diabetes

Professor Jeremy Krebs (University of Otago, Wellington), Healthier Lives science leadership team member, is the first expert to be interviewed for a new weekly online series about diabetes.  
RNZ’s Megan Wheelan is documenting her journey of learning to live with type 2 diabetes and finds that Jeremy has some honest and down-to-earth answers to her questions.

Diabetes and me RadioNZ

Telehealth services could improve access to healthcare

Associate Professor Matire Harwood (University of Auckland), Healthier Lives principal investigator and science leadership team member, talks about findings from a study investigating experiences of Māori and their whānau with telehealth services over the March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown.
Telehealth reduces health inequities for whānau University of Auckland

View our 2019-24 Research Strategy

He Pikinga Waiora Research Findings Brief

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