Improving the health of New Zealanders the aim of funded research projects

Tuesday 19 December 2023

Two staff members from the Research Centre for Hauora & Health have been awarded grants from Lottery Health Research Te Tahua Tangahau Hauoratanga for projects that will improve the health of New Zealanders.

Dr Grace Chen (left) and Dr Marine Corbin.

Each year, Lottery Health Research Te Tahua Rangahau Hauoratanga provides grants to organisations for health research projects, fellowships, scholarships and research equipment that will help improve the health of New Zealanders.

Two Massey Researcher Officers, both from the Research Centre for Hauora & Health, have been awarded grants for the 2023/24 round. Dr Marine Corbin has been awarded a Project Grant, while Dr Grace Chen has been awarded a Postdoctoral Fellowship. The Committee had less funding to allocate this round, meaning fewer requests were successful in receiving funding, so these successes are even more impressive.

Dr Marine Corbin – Outcomes of patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease in Aotearoa New Zealand

Inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) are a group of inflammatory disorders including Crohn’s disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC), characterised by chronic inflammation anywhere in the gastrointestinal tract (CD) or colon only (UC). IBD is a lifelong disease without a cure or known cause, with onset most commonly occurring between 15-35 years of age. It requires careful management to limit flare-ups, complications and co-morbidities. New Zealand has one of the highest rates of IBD in the world among both adults and children, with a particularly high incidence in the South Island.

This project will conduct a study looking at health and social outcomes of New Zealanders with IBD using a group of clinically confirmed patients, as well as cases identified nationwide using routinely collected health and social data from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure.

The study aims to identify complications and co-morbidities associated with IBD, assess mental health service use and treatment for patients with IBD, assess the proportion of unemployment and social benefit outcomes for patients with IBD, assess geographic inequalities in health and social outcomes, and assess ethnic inequalities in health and social outcomes.

Dr Grace Chen – Concussion and neurogenerative diseases in New Zealand

Neurodegenerative diseases (NDDs) pose significant challenges globally, affecting individuals of all genders and ethnicities, and contribute significantly to mortality and disability rates. The incidence of NDDs increases rapidly with age, and with an aging population in New Zealand, the economic and social burden will be considerable, particularly for Māori and Pacific people.

This Fellowship will enable Dr Chen to pursue research in neuro-epidemiology, an area that is relatively poorly developed in New Zealand and internationally. Her interest lies in exploring modifiable risk factors, with emphasis on concussion and associations with Motor Neurone Disease, Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease in New Zealand. The funding will allow her to examine these associations, increase awareness about the role of traumatic brain injury (TBI)/concussion and NDDs in New Zealand, and identify approaches to reducing the risk of concussion-associated NDDs in the community. It will also support Dr Chen’s development as an independent researcher, while also building capacity in neuroepidemiology and public health more generally.

The results of the project will be used to guide concussion prevention policies in New Zealand, identify priority population groups and target community-focussed health promotion, education and intervention strategies regarding awareness of NDDs and risk-taking behaviours around TBI/concussion. The research findings will have a strong potential to contribute to the development of evidence-based equity-focussed interventions for NDDs. This will potentially reduce the inequitable burden of these diseases in Māori and Pacific populations, as well as have a real and substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of many New Zealanders.

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