UC academics take up challenge to help NZ children

19 February 2016

University of Canterbury academics are taking leading roles in the new government science challenge to improve health and education outcomes for New Zealand's children.

UC academics take up challenge to help NZ children - Imported from Legacy News system

(From left to right) A Better Start's Science Leadership Team is Professor Wayne Cutfield of the Liggins Institute (obesity), Professor Gail Gillon of the University of Canterbury (literacy), Professor Sally Merry of the University of Auckland (mental health), Professor Barry Taylor of the University of Otago (big data) and Professor Angus Macfarlane of the University of Canterbury (Maori research).

University of Canterbury academics are taking leading roles in the new government science challenge to improve health and education outcomes for New Zealand’s children.

UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Gail Gillon is co-directing the government initiative, a new National Science Challenge – A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea – which was launched by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today.

Professor Gillon is also a principal researcher in the Challenge, which aims to improve the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life by reducing obesity and improving learning skills and mental health in New Zealand children and teenagers.

The challenge for A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea is to identify critical health, education and mental health issues that, if prevented or resolved, would have a major positive impact on the vulnerable children’s lives, she says. The Challenge has identified that childhood obesity, early literacy and behavioural problems are critical areas, respond to research-based intervention and can lead to vastly improved outcomes for the individuals and society.

Professor Gillon, who affiliates to Ngai Tahu, says Māori scientists and communities are integral to the research strategy.

“It’s fitting that A Better Start’s Māori name, E Tipu e Rea, means 'grow and branch forth'. Our research will be designed in line with kaupapa Māori principles, to braid together indigenous and Western scientific understandings and processes.” 

Also from UC’s College of Education, Health and Human Development, Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane (Te Arawa) is the Māori Research Leader for the Challenge. He says New Zealand has a significant proportion of tamariki and young people with health, educational and mental health vulnerabilities.

“These vulnerable tamariki are concentrated in low socioeconomic communities with a disproportionate burden falling on Māori and Pasifika,” he says.

The Challenge involves collaboration with other New Zealand universities, including Otago, Massey, Auckland and Waikato, as well as Crown Research Institutes and other research organisations as part of a broader, multi-disciplinary team.

A Better Start is one of 11 National Science Challenges designed to find solutions to large, complex issues facing New Zealanders.  UC academics are involved in all 11 of the National Science Challenges.

For more information please contact:

Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the College of Education, Health and Human Development, Professor Gail Gillon, University of Canterbury , Phone: (03) 343 7724, Email: gail.gillon@canterbury.ac.nz

or

Senior External Relations Advisor Margaret Agnew, University of Canterbury, Phone: (03) 364 2775, Mobile: 027 5030 168, margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz