A study to measure the mental health of young people who grow up in areas with unhealthy environmental features, such as gaming venues, takeaway shops and liquor outlets, is one of 12 projects to get the greenlight through a new $4M collaboration to fund child health research.

A Better Start, one of the country’s 11 National Science Challenges, and Cure Kids, New Zealand’s largest national child health research charity, are co-funding the new projects, which are all aimed at making a real-world difference for tamariki and their whānau.

The research projects are centred on three key research areas – healthy weight, mental health and resilience, and early learning and literacy – and all focus on equitable outcomes for Māori and Pasifika children.

Some of the other funded projects include a pilot study of wearable technologies to help young people to sense and regulate anxiety; a study of how school lunches affect children’s nutrition, health, school attendance, and behaviour; an initiative to deliver telehealth interventions and therapy to children on the autism spectrum; development of evidence-based and culturally appropriate advice to support overweight children; and a follow-up study of breastfeeding and early childhood for babies of mothers who took fish oil during pregnancy.

The projects were subject to a rigorous evaluation process, including assessment by independent expert panels. They will get underway later this year and be funded for up to two years.

“The earlier we tackle a child’s health problems, the greater the benefit to the child throughout its life, and to the country,” says A Better Start National Science Challenge Director Professor Wayne Cutfield.

“We know that healthier children become productive contributors to society, and we’re excited by the strong potential these projects have to make a positive difference early in children’s lives.”

Cure Kids CEO Frances Benge says the projects will address some of the most important challenges facing our young people.

“Healthy weight, successful learning, and mental health are central to the wellbeing of our children to give them a better start on life. These 12 projects explore innovative ideas to enable better care for children, and develop new methods for prevention or treatment.  Five of the projects are designed to translate previous research into practical tools for healthcare professionals and seven are innovative new ideas.

“We are excited about the new knowledge that will come from these research projects and about how they will improve the health of our children.”

This is the second time Cure Kids and A Better Start have collaborated to create a contestable funding round – in 2017 they funded 10 child health research projects to the tune of $2.8 million.

Learn more about the newly announced 12 successful funded projects here