Researchers awarded seed grants to scope range of health projects

University researchers successful in initial 2023 round of activation grants funded by Health Research Council.

Marketing to children: A literature review will distil the research on the marketing of alcohol, tobacco/vape and unhealthy fod and drinks to children.

Eleven researchers from the University have received Health Delivery Research Activation Grants for the first round of 2023 from the Health Research Council. Health Delivery Research Activation Grants provide support to establish health delivery research evidence needs or research opportunities, or develop research capacity, before applying for further health delivery funding. The maximum value of these grants is $30,000 for a maximum term of 18 months.

Natalia Boven, Faculty of Science

Classifying complex illness in linked data:Test case with multiple sclerosis. 12 months, $30,000.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory demyelinating disease of the central nervous system which causes high levels of disability. Disease-modifying treatments (DMTs) are available to reduce disease progression, although rates of prescriptions are low in Aotearoa, and it is not known whether these medications are being prescribed equitably. This study will examine the feasibility of using administrative data to identify cases of MS, and to test for ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in access to DMTs.

Professor Neal Curtis, Faculty of Arts
Advocating for brain tumour research through comics. 18 months, $30,000

The project is a form of science communication known as ‘graphic medicine’ , which is the use of comics to promote medical and health issues. It tells the stories of two brain tumour patients (with low-grade and high-grade tumours) and two carers (caring for a partner and a child) through the medium of comics. The broader purpose is to advocate for brain tumour research and the development of a brain tumour registry in Aotearoa. These comics can be informational, educational or experiential and are especially good for enabling patients to speak about their journeys. The nature of the medium allows for the presentation of complex issues with an immediacy that can be very affecting.

Dr Victoria Egli, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Advertising 101: marketing unhealthy commodities to children. 18 months, $29,925

The marketing of alcohol, tobacco/vape and unhealthy food/drink products increases children’s risk of developing a variety of ill-health conditions including digestive issues, obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, poor oral health and mental health problems. The research is a literature review summarising all available evidence on the marketing of alcohol, tobacco/vape and unhealthy food/drinks to children in Aotearoa New Zealand. To address the marketing of these unhealthy commodities to children researchers will spend time meeting with a diverse variety of stakeholders to determine the most appropriate way to develop a successful community child health initiative potentially comprising best practice guidelines for healthcare teams working in schools and community child health settings and/or a child health education initiative.

Dr Sara Hanning, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Exploring the understandability of paediatric medicine labels in Aotearoa.18 months, $29,280

Dispensed medicine labels provide instructions about how much medicine to take and how often. Though some information is legally required, how information is presented on labels is unregulated in Aotearoa. Information presentation affects the understandability of instructions. A recent audit identified substantial variation in how instructions are presented on paediatric medicine labels. There is a need to identify how the presentation of medicine labels influences instruction understandability for different population groups, including Māori and Pacific Peoples.

Dr Stephen Jacobs, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Creating workplaces that support early career nurse thriving and retention.18 months, $29,950

Approximately 59 per cent of health professionals are nurses. Covid exacerbated existing nursing shortages. In 2017, 27 per cent of new NZ nurses left within two years; in the USA 31 per cent now leave within one year. Improving the attractiveness of nursing in NZ is vital. Te Toka Tumai is striving to retain new nurses and increase the Māori nursing workforce (currently only 7 per cent) and Pacific nurses to improve equity of outcomes. This long-term collaborative research project uses systematic quality improvement methodology to identify what early-career nurses identify matters to them, what the organisation is doing well, and what needs to improve.

Dr Samantha Marsh, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Research collaboration to support effective, equitable immunisation in Aotearoa. 12 months, $30,000
Aotearoa New Zealand has a strong vaccination history, with the National Immunisation Schedule providing a series of publicly funded vaccines for infants, children, pregnant people, and older adults. However, the effective control of vaccine- preventable diseases requires sustained maintenance of high rates of timely vaccination. Currently the number of fully immunised children aged 24 months is well below the threshold required for herd immunity, with notable immunity gaps across the population. We aim to establish an immunisation delivery research network. The network will work collaboratively to identify up-to-the-minute research priorities that support effective and equitable uptake and coverage of immunisation in NZ and align with priority areas of the national immunisation programme.

Dr Nataly Martini, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Visualising heart health: Promoting cardiovascular health in Māori populations. 18 months, $30,000
The study aims to explore the feasibility of using a series of animated instructional videos titled “Talking About Medicines” to inform patients about how cardiovascular medicines work and why they need to take them. The study will evaluate the practicality, acceptability, and implementation of the videos in a clinical setting, as well as the burden and costs of administering the intervention.

Dr Michael O’Sullivan, Faculty of Engineering
Developing a digital twin of Te Manawa Taki | Midlands Region Healthcare. 12 months, $24,000
Digital twins combine data science, simulation modelling and artificial intelligence to provide decision makers with a digital copy of their real-world system. Using this digital “petri dish”, decision makers can: 1) observe the complexity of their system as it unfolds, and better understand system behaviour; 2) identify downstream problems before they occur; and 3) experiment with changes to the system and explore their effect. The digital twin paradigm is especially important for systems such as healthcare where individual components, e.g., healthcare services, are autonomous and it is unclear how changes to one component affects the rest of the system. This project takes the important first steps for building a digital twin of the Te Manawa Taki | Midlands Region healthcare system, namely: 1) development of a conceptual model of Te Manawa Taki | Midlands; 2) identification of key datasets; and 3) pathway discovery on the datasets to validate and update.

Dr Charlotte Oyston, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
The Baby heAd Elevation Device (BEAD) Feasibility study. 18 months, $24,971
In New Zealand, each year 1500 term babies are born by cesarean section when the mother’s cervix is fully dilated. Cesarean at this late stage is more likely to result in harm to mum or baby, compared to cesarean performed earlier in labour. This is because the baby’s head is more difficult to deliver, causing increased risk of tearing to the uterus (womb), or low oxygen levels / bruising to the baby. A single use inflatable “balloon” that is inserted vaginally has been marketed as a way of making full dilation cesarean safer for mums and babies. Many doctors in NZ and overseas have heard about this medical device and started to use it, despite a lack of evidence that it helps. There is no evidence that it causes harm, but at $NZ670 per use, we believe further research is required to determine whether it benefits mums and babies.

Associate Professor Rachael Parke, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
Exploring virtual visiting to improve equity of family access to intensive care. 18 months, $29,998
Admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) is stressful for patients and whānau and causing distress, anxiety, depression and complicated grief. In Aotearoa, in-person visiting is not always feasible due to geographical distances; hospital policies around visiting; work and caregiving commitments; and frailty, disability and socioeconomic considerations. Critical connections to whānau and home are disrupted. Virtual visiting (VV) using video-assisted calling on designated devices, allows whānau to see patients in hospital, participate in care meetings and rehabilitation sessions and by allowing patients to see home, whānau who cannot visit, see pets and attend cultural or spiritual gatherings. We wish to explore whether VV can help maintain connections between ICU patients and whānau.

Dr Lisa Williams, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences
TLGBTQI+ views on palliative and end of life care, including assisted dying 18 months, $30,000
A recent review of the (limited) international literature identified no New Zealand research on takatāpui lesbian, gay, bi- sexual, trans, queer, intersex, + (TLGBTQI+) older adults’ views on palliative and end of life care. Nor have we uncovered research about TLGBTQI+ older adults views on assisted dying in this country. The exploration of these issues will serve as a critical first step to making a significant contribution to palliative and end of life health delivery research for TLGBTQI+ older adults, both locally and internationally.