Professor Neil Pearce...public health more than just medicine.
Public Health Research
WELLINGTON - Massey's
research capability in the capital takes a quantum leap forward
this month with the establishment of a Centre for Public Health
The centre is headed by Professor Neil
Pearce, formerly Director of the Wellington Asthma Research Group
within the University of Otago's Wellington School of Medicine.
At least eight of Professor Pearce's
staff have already transferred to the new Centre, with more expected
to follow. Up to 20 staff will eventually be employed.
Professor Pearce has been a researcher
at the Wellington School of Medicine for the past 20 years. He has
undertaken a wide variety of public health research, including research
into asthma, cancer and occupational health. He has also worked
closely with Maori and Pacific Island health researchers.
He believes the setting up of a Centre
for Public Health Research under a Massey umbrella will expand the
"I can see a lot of opportunities
at Massey some people think that health is only about medicine,
and in New Zealand most health research is done in medical schools.
But in fact, public health is much broader than that," he says.
"It also involves environmental health,
occupational health, nursing, Maori health and social sciences,
plus a wide variety of research techniques. So I can see great potential
for really good public health research at Massey, because many of
the required components already exist."
Professor Pearce says two specific reasons
prompted the move.
"One was the fact that there are
some very good health researchers here already, particularly Mason
Durie and Chris Cunningham's group, Pat Sullivan's group, and also
people like Cindy Kiro and Patsy Watson on the Albany campus. Undoubtedly,
there are others that I am just beginning to meet˜
"And secondly, I"m impressed
by Massey's attitudes to research, the way it is seen as a positive
thing, the way Massey seems very keen to have us and to support
us. That's a great experience for me."
Professor Pearce will continue with his
own asthma studies; the centre will operate on a wider canvas.
"I would imagine that over the next
year we will be doing or developing research in areas such as cancer,
diabetes, occupational health, socio-economic determinants of health
and Pacific health research. Our Maori health research will be based
alongside Chris Cunningham's group."
Professor Pearce says the establishing
of such a centre is a reflection of the need to look at the "big
picture" in terms of public health.
"It's important to remember the diseases
of the 19th Century such as Cholera and Tb were all rapidly declining
before there was any treatment or vaccine, simply because of better
nutrition, housing and social conditions˜
"I believe that these same social
factors - those which are being tackled in the Closing the Gaps
programme - will become very important in this coming century, and
the Government will require better-focused public health research
as it concentrates on tackling this bigger picture. What the ministers
of employment, social welfare, finance, and housing do is probably
more important than what the Minister of Health does. It's easy
to lose sight of that in a medical school, and it is important to
be part of a university with a broad vision of health research."
Wellington principal Bruce Phillipps says
the experience and reputation of Professor Pearce will greatly add
to Massey's research capabilities in the capital.
"This centre comes to a campus which
has a long-standing involvement in public health, through its courses
in nursing, midwifery and environmental health. I look forward to
bringing the work of Professor Pearce into those areas, and an expansion
of our offerings in public health. I see a real synergy happening
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Barrie Macdonald says he is delighted
to welcome Professor Pearce to the College and the University