Research from the eleven National Science Challenges featured in panel discussions over four evenings from 4-7 July 2023, discussing how scientific evidence can make important contributions to many aspects of life in Aotearoa New Zealand and some of it’s biggest issues facing our people.

A Better Start (ABS) – E Tipu e Rea was proud to be a part of the Science Festival once again, and we couldn’t have had anyone better to represent us than ABS Deputy Director Professor Barry Taylor for one of the panel discussion titled, Healthier Kiwis A National Science Challenge Talks – how can we improve the health and wellbeing of kiwis across all age, cultural and economic spectrums?

Prof Geoff Chase – Science for Technological Innovation National Science Challenge
Prof Parry Guilford – Healthier Lives National Science Challenge
Prof Louise Parr-Brownlie – Ageing Well National Science Challenge
Prof Barry Taylor – A Better Start National Science Challenge

To listen to the full panel discussion click here


Moderator: Prof Peter Crampton

Barry was kind enough to share his thoughts from the night.  “The discussion was vigorous and helpful. I summarised some of the key findings from our Science Challenge, notably the development and role out of the phonics based Better Start Literacy Approach which followed on nicely from the previous Saturdays guest on the Kim Hill show (Emily Hanford), who was saying how this way of learning words was so important.  The Better Start Literacy Approach has been shown in this challenge to work well for students entering school with the need for extra support in reading.  We also discussed the Habits (Healthy advances through behavioral interventions) and that through that series of tools for young people to use had been developed, and shown to work if they were used.  Their place has become another tool for those working with young people to use but that they do not replace the need for personal relationships being developed for support to work.  Finally, we had some discussion about our findings of decreasing levels of unhealthy high weights in 4 year old children, and why this may have happened.  An audience member suggested a mechanism that we had not looked at and was very useful.”

“The audience was very engaged and the discussion over kai afterwards suggested the audience was fascinated and engaged in the work we have done.  Moreover, some of the resources developed by the Better Start Literacy Approach had been downloaded and used as story books for an immigrant Australian family who said how engaged their children were with the stories and characters portrayed!”

Drawing on research from the National Science Challenges, these talks focused on supporting and improving our collective mental and physical wellbeing. All four panel discussions will be available to view online at a later time and we look forward to sharing this with you.

Professor Barry Taylor – University of Otago
Professor Barry Taylor is Deputy Director of A Better Start – E Tipu e Rea – National Science Challenge and Professor of Paediatric Health in the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Otago University and formerly the Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine. Barry is a distinguished researcher who has dedicated his career to improving the health and wellbeing of children in New Zealand and around the world.

His research interests have spanned paediatric endocrinology, sudden infant death syndrome and the development of national mortality review for child and youth deaths. He has developed interests in the investigation of sleep disorders of children and the use of “big data” to answer questions about child health and wellbeing.

With the rapidly increasing child obesity rates a national problem, a significant part of Barry’s research now focuses on prevention and management of this issue. Of special interest is the interaction (at many levels) between sleep and obesity and the prevention and management of unhealthy child weight gain.

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