public health dream team
Public health research in New Zealand is taking
a quantum leap forward
Under a Massey University initiative announced today, three existing public
health research centres within the university - the Auckland-based SHORE
Centre, Te Pümanawa Hauora and the Wellington-based Centre for Public
Health Research – are being joined by a fourth, a new Sleep/Wake
Research Centre, as led by Professor Philipa Gander.
Professor Gander and her team were previously with the University of Otago’s
Wellington School of Medicine.
The four Centres are being linked under a new Research School of Public
Health. And the new School will be further strengthened with Auckland-based
health policy research specialist Dr Cindy Kiro joining the Public Health
Professor Neil Pearce, Director of the Centre for Public Health Research,
says the new School will provide exciting new opportunities for ‘multi-disciplinary
and applied’ approaches to some of the major public health problems
now facing New Zealand communities.
“At present we have these four externally-funded fulltime health
research centres which complement each other,” says Professor Pearce.
“So it’s logical to bring them together under a research school.
Each centre will cooperate within the school, while continuing to develop
its own speciality research areas. Together, I’m sure the cluster
will make major inroads into many of the public health problems which
have become prevalent in many New Zealand communities.”
Professor Pearce says most public health problems are not about to be
solved by treatment through existing clinical health services. The major
killers of the 19th century such as tuberculosis and cholera, for example,
were virtually eliminated by improvements in housing and nutrition before
any effective treatment or immunisation was available.
“ We know the major determinates of health are still social, economic
and environmental factors – like housing, nutrition, and occupational
exposures,” he says. “We need to address this big picture”
Professor Pearce says public health research has sometimes been regarded
as the “poor relation” within medical schools. The clinical
approach taken within such schools seldom allows for the flexible approach
needed for public health in general, or for Maori and Pacific health in
Public Health Dream Team /2 “Effective health research needs a coordinated,
multi-disciplinary approach, with the results feeding directly into policy,”
he says. “This is why research groups have been so keen to come
to Massey – they’re in a general university, where they can
take a broader approach and develop appropriate research methods to address
the major public health problems. They are able to share information between
their various disciplines, while also tapping into a much broader spectrum
of expertise within the wider University.”
Over the past two years the CPHR has convened public health symposiums
which have brought New Zealander’s leading health researchers and
policy makers together, sometimes for the first time. “After identifying
the major public health problems, our next step is to make a direct input
into the policy-making process. Often that means supporting Government
initiatives, but sometimes we have to point out where refocusing is required.”
The four centres which make up the Research School of Public Health are….
The Centre for Public Health Research headed by Professor Neil Pearce:
A multi-disciplinary team of 20 researchers based in Wellington. The Centre
was established in 2000. Its research programme covers all aspects of
public health research, but with a focus on non-communicable diseases
(respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes), occupational health, socio-economic
determinants of health, Maori health and Pacific health research. Dr Cindy
Kiro will be based in Auckland city, with SHORE.
The Centre for Social and Health Outcomes, Research and Evaluation (SHORE):
This Auckland-based group of 25 health researchers also takes a multi-disciplinary
approach, concentrating on policy relevant research within diverse population
groups. SHORE is headed by Professor Sally Casswell, a social scientist
with research interests in social and public health policy, particularly
in relation to alcohol and other drugs. Current studies include an examination
of alcohol marketing and the implications for both marketing health promotion,
and alcohol policy for youth.
Te Pümanawa Hauora: The Maori health research unit within the School
of Maori Studies, Te Putahi-A-Toi. It is headed by Associate Professor
Chris Cunningham and has 15 researchers located at Wellington, Palmerston
North and Auckland. It was established in 1993 with funding from the Health
Research Council, Massey University and Te Puni Kokiri. The broad focus
is on Maori health research workforce development, with projects covering
tobacco smoking, mental health, diabetes, hepatitis B, child health and
development, Maori health policy, health services and housing.
The Sleep/Wake Research Centre: Established at the Wellington campus on
1 February and headed by Professor Philippa Gander. The Centre specialises
in research into sleep and occupational stress and fatigue. Its projects
include studies in the transportation industries such as aviation and
truck driving, population surveys of sleep apnoea and insomnia, and studies
of sleep in pregnancy, and in medical professionals (including anaesthetists
and junior doctors).
Research School of Public Health http://rsph.massey.ac.nz/
Centre for Public Health Research http://publichealth.massey.ac.nz/
SHORE Centre http://www.shore.ac.nz/
Sleep/Wake Research Centre http://sleepwake.massey.ac.nz/
Te Pümanawa Hauora http://hauora.massey.ac.nz/