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Massey Magazine Issue 13 November 2002

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$1.2 million for Public Health Research Centre

Massey’s new Centre for Public Health Research has received $1.2 million worth of new funding from the Health Research Council.

Director Professor Neil Pearce says after nine months’ operation, the Centre now has a firm base of HRC funding.

Specific grants include three new asthma projects:

• A study by Lis Ellison-Loschmann on the severity of asthma in Mäori. It looks at Mäori adolescents with current asthma symptoms and assesses factors that affect asthma severity and access to asthma education and health care. While asthma prevalence is similar among Mäori and non-Mäori children, the severity of asthma is much greater among Mäori, probably because of problems of access to care.

• A study by Jerome Douwes on non-allergic mechanisms for asthma. This is a joint project with the Malaghan Institute for Medical Research. Asthma is increasing worldwide, but it is now believed that fewer than half of asthma cases occur through allergic mechanisms. This will be the first population-based study anywhere in the world to investigate non- allergic mechanisms.

• A study by Professor Pearce on childhood infections and asthma risk. This is being jointly undertaken with ESR, a Crown Research Institute.

Professor Pearce says the above projects together cover the key areas of asthma research; from a Mäori community-based project the epidemiology of particular factors such as infections to research into the underlying causes of asthma.

Other new grants include:

• An HRC-funded Mäori community-based diabetes control demonstration project by Mihi Ratima.

• An HRC-funded study by Mihi Ratima on the foundations of Mäori health promotion.

• A study by Dave McLean, funded by Lotteries Health Research, on cancer in dioxin-exposed workers.

Meanwhile, Te Pümanawa Hauora - the Mäori Health Research Centre within the School of Mäori Studies on the Turitea campus - has been successful in securing a continuation of its programme funding from the HRC.

Director Chris Cunningham says the Centre has been going since 1993 and the ongoing funding of $506,000 announced in the latest HRC funding round is for an additional two years from 1 July 2001.

A focus of centre activity has been capacity-building through the training and support of HRC Training Fellows and Post-graduate scholars in Mäori Health Research. The Centre currently hosts 10 fellows/scholars studying at doctoral level; they will be supported by the continuing funding.

In addition, the Centre will continue to make progress on research into smoking cessation, the health of kaumätua (older Mäori), the Mäori mental health workforce, a picture of Mäori child health, the New Zealand mental health survey, and Mäori diabetes and hepatitis B screening.

Professor Pearce says Massey now has a large block of public health and Mäori health research funding from the HRC, and this is significant when considered against the 20 percent success rate of applications overall.

“Where HRC funding has traditionally gone to New Zealand’s two medical schools, this latest success means Massey is now a major player.”

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