Challenge science supports social investment in children

05 May 2017

Strategic research underway by A Better Start, one of the country’s 11 National Science Challenges, will provide the science-backed tools to support the Government’s social investment in children announced for Budget 2017.

In a pre-budget announcement this week Prime Minister Bill English said $69 million would be spent on Family Start, a nationwide programme to support children at risk of long-term mental health and other risks to having a healthy and successful life. As part of its social investment, the budget will support specialist help for three and four-year-olds with oral language needs.

Challenge Director Professor Wayne Cutfield said challenge researchers focused on early detection, prevention and quick intervention which is aligned with the social investment strategy for children.

Challenge science leader Professor Sally Merry’s team at the University of Auckland is working on research into e-health initiatives, HABITS for adolescents, and parenting apps, jointly funded with Cure Kids. “We’re delighted that there is strong recognition that early intervention as the best way to address mental health problems. Our focus is on children at pre-school and in their early teens. Those are the ages when we can potentially make most difference to support healthy social and emotional development so that young people can lead healthy and successful. 

Challenge co-director Professor Gail Gillon at the University of Canterbury leads a team working on facilitating early literacy success for children entering school with low levels of oral language and other health risks. As part of the Better Start Challenge, Gillon’s team is developing online assessment tools for early screening of young children’s oral language development to support better education and health outcomes.

For media inquiries: Gilbert Wong 021 917942 gilbert.wong@auckland.ac.nz