$4.4m for Massey health research

Professor John Potter from the Centre for Public Health Research has been awarded $1.2 million in funding over three years, to explore the use of self-sampling for cervical screening.

Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann.

Professor Philippa Gander.

Professor Jeroen Douwes.

Dr Amanda Eng.

Five Massey University College of Health research projects have been awarded more than $4 million in funding from the Health Research Council to tackle issues including screening for cervical cancer, cancer survival rates in Māori, improving smoking cessation rates, managing nurses' fatigue and occupational risk factors of cardiovascular disease.

College Pro Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul McDonald says the investments are crucial for improving the health and wellbeing of New Zealand residents.

“The projects will lead to breakthroughs in the prevention and improved treatment of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes," Professor McDonald says. "They will provide insight into how we can improve Māori and workplace health. I’m proud that health research funding at Massey University continues to grow. It’s an indication of the large and expanding number of creative and world-class academics and students we have in various health fields at Massey.”

Massey’s head of research, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, Research, Academic and Enterprise Professor Giselle Byrnes, congratulated the successful applicants and pointed to health-related research across the University as a force to be reckoned with. “Massey University’s capacity and expertise in health-related research continues to underscore our strong identity as an institution where both research discovery and applied research are valued and promoted.”

The projects are:

Self-sampling for HPV screening: a community trial, awarded $1.2 million over three years, led by Professor John Potter from Massey's Centre for Public Health Research. Professor Potter is also chief science advisor to the Ministry of Health.

There are major ethnic inequalities in cervical cancer screening, incidence, and mortality in New Zealand. Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the main cause of cervical cancer. Screening for high-risk HPV genotypes (with appropriate subsequent treatment) could prevent nearly all instances of cervical cancer. The research team members believe offering the opportunity for self-sampling to obtain a cervical specimen for HPV testing will mean more women participate in the National Cervical Screening Programme and incidence, mortality rates and ethnic disparities in screening will be reduced. The team will conduct a community trial in Māori, Pacific and Asian women, comparing invitation for screening with invitation for self-sampling. They will determine whether non-screened and under-screened women find self-sampling acceptable and establish which factors affect their perceptions. The study aims to contribute to reducing inequities in New Zealand by exploring the use of a new cervical screening method that women, who do not currently undergo screening, may find acceptable.

Cancer support programmes for Māori whānau, awarded $1.04 million over three years, led by Dr Lis Ellison-Loschmann from the Centre for Public Health Research and Tira Albert, the manager of Mana Wahine.

The research is focused on partnerships between Mana Wahine, a collective of six Māori health provider organisations, and Massey University to develop a cancer support programme that will meet the realities of Māori living with cancer and their whānau. The study builds on previous work by the researchers (also funded by the Health Research Council) highlighting the central role of whānau ora to improving outcomes for Māori with cancer and identified the need for culturally safe support programmes to be a cancer care priority for Māori. The study will also examine how to achieve programme sustainability, an area not previously widely researched. The intervention study will involve development, implementation and evaluation of a cancer support whānau programme within three organisations – Hora Te Pai Health Services (Kapiti Coast), Kōkiri Marae Health and Social Services (Lower Hutt) and Whaiora Whanui (Masterton). The organisations span urban and rural iwi, hapū and whānau. Staff from each will be trained as programme delivery facilitators. The development could lead to substantial improvements in quality of life and survival from cancer for Māori whānau. The study will also contribute distinctive indigenous knowledge in relation to whānau ora, as a Māori-developed policy, and its application through practice development of a sustainable, cancer support whānau programme.

Implementing a science-based approach for fatigue risk management in nursing, awarded $890,523 over three years, led by Professor Philippa Gander from Massey's Sleep/Wake Research Centre.

District health boards are required to manage nurses’ fatigue as a workplace hazard and shift work as a cause of fatigue under the Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Act, 2002. Professor Gander and Dr Karyn O’Keeffe (Sleep/Wake Research Centre), Professor Annette Huntington of Massey's School of Nursing, and Dr Leonie Walker of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, will work with an advisory group of senior stakeholders to launch a new collaborative approach for managing fatigue in hospital-based nurses. Expected benefits include improvements in patient safety and in the safety, heath, and retention of nurses.

The project includes four steps:

  • Building fatigue awareness and knowledge across the sector
  • Developing an evidence-based approach for evaluating the fatigue risk associated with different rosters, based on a nationwide survey of nurses’ work patterns in six practice areas with high risk of fatigue-related error
  • Developing and disseminating a Code of Practice for shift work and fatigue management in hospital-based nursing
  • Identifying, or advocating for, an agency with ongoing responsibility for fatigue risk management in nursing.

Work-related risk factors for cardiovascular disease, awarded $715,282 over two years, led by Professor Jeroen Douwes and Dr Amanda Eng from the Centre for Public Health Research.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in New Zealand. There is evidence occupational risk factors play a role in cardiovascular disease. However, there are many knowledge gaps in part due to the lack of research in this area. Professor Douwes, Dr Eng and their team will use their previous New Zealand Workforce Survey and Māori New Zealand Workforce Survey as the basis for a prospective cohort study, following up participants for new disease outcomes through linkage with health records. They will assess associations between occupational exposures (including night shift, chemicals, noise, stress, strenuous/sedentary work) and heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. They will also investigate potential intermediate and modifying factors (such as obesity and sleep problems) on disease risk. The study will evaluate whether common and current workplace exposures increase the risk of disease and identify specific modifiable occupational risk factors contributing to improved prevention.

Me Mutu Kai Paipa – Improving the Provision of Cessation to New Zealand Smokers, awarded $577,720 over two years, led by Professor Chris Cunningham, Research Centre for Māori Health and Development.

Quitline is the world's leading smoking cessation telephone line, supporting more than 500,000 attempts and helping more than 100,000 people stop smoking since 2000. It holds a large and unique dataset on case histories, successes and failures. The project will analyse this data in order to produce an algorithm to assist smoking cessation providers in making decisions when developing appropriate advice and support. Factors such as demographics, level of addiction, motivational status and previous attempts to stop smoking will be synthesised through the algorithm to produce customised, risk-adjusted guidance to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of advice provided. The algorithm will be available to all smoking cessation advisors and services in New Zealand to support the goal of Smokefree Aotearoa 2025.

The latest round of funding, announced today, totals $103.64 million, invested in 61 research contracts across 10 institutions. More information is available on the Health Research Council website.

Related articles

Health researchers secure more than $6m in HRC funding
Health researcher awarded HRC grant
Pasifika health research funded at Massey
Potter appointed Health Ministry’s chief science advisor

More related articles