Two researchers in a laboratoryThe Healthier Lives National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.

We aim to reduce the national burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and improve equity of health outcomes across New Zealand.

Our 2019-2024 strategy focuses on three research themes:

  • Healthy food and physical activity environments
  • Culturally engaged health interventions for Māori and Pacific peoples
  • Precision medicine and personalised prevention.

Read more about our 2019-2024 research strategy



Research overview

The Challenge addresses four of New Zealand’s main non-communicable diseases (NCDs):

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD)
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

New Zealand’s NCD statistics are disturbing:

  • $500m to $1,000m Vote Health dollars are spent each year on diagnosis and treatment of cancer-related events
  • New Zealand’s incidence of colorectal cancer is among the highest in the world
  • CVD kills more than one in three New Zealanders, and is responsible for more than 30,000 hospital admissions each year
  • We have the third highest prevalence of obesity within OECD countries
  • 8% of the adult population have type 2 diabetes (rising 7% per annum), and 25% have prediabetes

The key to changing this is delivering the right prevention to the right population and the right treatment to the right patient.

  •  We aim to reduce the health burden of these diseases by 25% by 2025
  • We aim to reduce inequalities between populations by 25% by 2025

We plan to do this in partnership with stakeholders and communities by generating world class research, and translating our research findings into innovative health policy, practice, and technology, designed for New Zealand’s unique communities.

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Research programmes

Five high-level research programmes have been identified as priorities:

  • Personalised prevention through new technologies
  • Minimally invasive markers for effective cancer diagnosis and treatment
  • Enhanced CVD and diabetes risk reduction
  • Delivering culturally centred health initiatives
  • Slowing progression of prediabetes to diabetes

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Research projects

In the first phase of operations (2015-2019) Healthier Lives funds a number of projects directly.  The Challenge is also a partner in the Long Term Conditions partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Health Research Council, which co-funds five research projects. Healthier Lives is currently in the process of scoping and prioritising research for the second phase of research (2019-2024).

Challenge research projects address issues identified by stakeholders as requiring urgent attention, build on New Zealand’s existing research strengths and capability, and use the nature of the Challenge to stretch current approaches.



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cancerRFB cover

Research findings briefs

He kupu mō ngā kitenga rangahau

A series of research findings briefs, designed to distil large amounts of evidence from completed research projects and convey their key messages.


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Research publications

Puka rangahau







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