About A Better StartHealthy and successful lives for tamariki
The Challenge has more than 160 researchers delivering excellent science to give our tamariki a better start in life. They come from many different disciplines and organisations, but are united in their commitment. Our researchers share a collaborative approach and through the He Awa Whiria (braided rivers) model weave together knowledge from differing sources that flow together to progress the wellbeing of tamariki.
Professor Wayne Cutfield
E Tipu e Rea (Grow and branch forth) is our Māori name.
The name comes from the leader and scholar Sir Āpirana Ngata. In 1949, shortly before his death, the Ngāti Porou leader wrote in the autograph book of schoolgirl Rangi Bennett a passage about this vision for Māori youth.
E tipu e rea mō ngā rā o tō ao
Ko tō ringa ki ngā rākau a te Pākehā
Hei ora mō te tinana
Ko tō ngākau ki ngā tāonga a ō tīpuna Māori
Hei tikitiki mō tō māhuna
Ko tō wairua ki tō atua
Nānā nei ngā mea katoa.
Grow and branch forth for the days destined to you
Your hands to the tools of the Pākehā
For the welfare of your body
Your heart to the treasures of your ancestors
adornments for your brow
Your spirit to god
Who made all things.
The challenge leadership team includes the Challenge Director, two Co-Directors and theme leaders for each of the five research areas.
Challenge Deputy Directors
Professor Wayne Cutfield
Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology
Liggins Institute, University of Auckland
Professor Cutfield is an expert on insulin sensitivity and action in children, and leads clinical research which shows how environmental influences early in life can affect childhood growth and development in ways that could lead to chronic conditions in adult life.
Professor Gail Gillon
Education, Health and Human Development, University of Canterbury
Professor Gillon’s area of research focuses on understanding the relationship between spoken and written language development and, in particular, the importance of children’s phonological awareness to reading and spelling development.
Professor Barry Taylor
Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine
Professor Taylor’s research interests have spanned paediatric endocrinology, sudden infant death syndrome (both epidemiology and the physiology underpinning the ability of infants to wake up on arousal), and the development of national mortality review for child and youth deaths.
Research Theme Leaders
Associate Professor Matire Harwood
Co-director for Tōmaiora, Māori Health Research, Senior Lecturer at the Auckland Medical School; Editor for the Māori Health Research Review; Clinical Advisor at National Hauora Coalition PHO and General Practitioner at Papakura Marae Health Clinic.
Professor Angus Macfarlane, previously Theme Leader Vision Mātauranga is now Kaihautu Māori, an honorary role of kaumatua status
Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane
Te Ru Rangahau,
Māori Education Research Lab,
University of Canterbury
Science Advisory Panel
A Better Start has appointed an international Science Advisory Panel, to provide critical appraisal, guidance and global benchmarking for our research.
Professor Ken Ong
Professor of Paediatric Endocrinology
Professor Ong is the co-leader of the Growth and Development Programme at the MRC Epidemiology Unity, University of Cambridge.
Professor Martin Wabitsch
Professor Wabitsch is Head of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology, University Clinic for Paediatrics, Ulm.
Andrew Sporle is a lecturer in the Statistics Department at the University of Auckland and has extensive experience developing and reviewing research, and working with Big Data.
Dr Robert Savage
Dr Savage is a Professor and Head of the Department in Psychology and Human Development at University College London.
Professor James Chapman
Professor of Education Psychology
Professor Chapman was the Pro Vice-Chancellor of the College of Education at Massey University for 10 years, and has published extensively in the areas of literacy and learning.
Professor Maree Teesson
Professor Maree Teesson AC FAAHMS FASSA is the Director of NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Faculty of Medicine at the University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney).
Professor John Lynch
Professor Lynch is an epidemiologist and Professor of Public Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Adelaide
The Challenge Board provide management oversight, advice and support to the Challenge and its leadership.
Pat Snedden is highly regarded for his extensive senior corporate governance experience. He was Chief Crown Negotiator, Ngati Kahu and Te Hiku o Te Ika (Muriwhenua) and was involved in the settlement of major Treaty of Waitangi claims. He is the Chair of Manaiakalani Education Trust, Chair of the Ko Awatea Education Partnership (CMDHB), and a Director for the Ports of Auckland.
Professor Peter Crampton
Professor Peter Crampton is Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Division of Health Sciences and Dean of the Otago Medical School at the University of Otago. His research is focused on social indicators and social epidemiology, health care policy, and health care organisation and funding.
Materoa Mar is of Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Whatua and Ngāti Porou descent and is Director – Māori Health for a large Primary Healthcare Organisation based in Palmerston North and also leads the Whanau Ora Alliance Te Tihi o Ruahine.
Professor Christa Fouche
Christa Fouche is Professor of Social Work at the University of Auckland and Director of Pūtahi Rangahau Ngātahi, a Centre that builds evidence of promising practices in communities through affirming partnerships. She serves as Associate DVC Research in the University’s Office of Research Strategy and Integrity where she is involved in the development of strategic research initiatives and researcher development opportunities across the University.
Dr Collin Tukuitonga
Dr Collin Tukuitonga has served as Secretariat for the Pacific Community Director-General since November 2013, and has previously held a number of senior positions in the Public Health arena, including at the New Zealand Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization.
Amber is the current Kaiārahi, Strategic Manager, Hauora for Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. For the past two decades Amber has translated between worlds, as an inter-cultural navigator for various institutions and groups, both māori and mainstream in the areas of hauora and education. She has had the privilege of holding representative positions for her hapū and Iwi, and has worked directly with whānau whānui as a practitioner in preventing violence and as a registered midwife working with Rakatahi Maōri, as a contract manager, researcher and educator.
BA/LLB (Auckland), MSc (distinction, Oxford), MNZM, for services to Māori health and development
Tribal affilitations: Ngati Ranginui, Ngati Hine, Ngati Haua, Ngati Hako
Sharon was the Northern Regional Health Authority’s Strategy Manager and a key member of its Māori Health Team. She helped write the first contracts between Māori health providers and government. She was a strategic and operational leader for multiple Māori health teams. Sharon has supported Māori health and wellbeing through her consulting business, Shea Pita and Associates Ltd. She has served on the Northland DHB and is a current ADHB member.
Former Board Members
A Better Start National Science Challenge thanks our former Board members for their service, advice and support to the Challenge and its leadership.
Distinguished Professor Jane Harding
Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 31 December 2015
Professor Jim Metson
Board tenure: 1 January 2016 – 31 December 2018
Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid
Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 30 April 2019
Dr Monique Faleafa
Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 31 December 2019
Kāhui Tūturu – Strategic Advisors
Our kāhui of Māori researchers and clinicians offers strategic advice into the Challenge’s research and alignment with Vision Mātauranga.
School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Canterbury
Dr Rawiri (David) Jansen
National Hauora Coalition.
Ngati Raukawa descent.
Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes
Director of the Whariki, SHORE and Whariki Research Centre
Dr Rees Tapsell
Forensic psychiatrist and the Director of Clinical Services for the Mental Health and Addictions Services of the Waikato District Health Board.
Specialises in indigenous language and culture regeneration and chairs the Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust
Pasifika Advisory Group
The group of Pasifika researchers advises the Challenge on its research, engagement with Pasifika communities and alignment with Pasifika health research guidelines
Dr Gerhard Sundborn
Senior Research Fellow
Epidemiology and biostatistics, Faculty of Medical and Health Science, University of Auckland.
Pacific Health, Ministry of Health
Dr Mele Taumoepeau
Chairperson Health Research Council Pacific Committee
Lecturer, University of Otago
Pasifika Regional Co-ordinator
(South Island) MOE Canterbury
Partners and collaborators
A Better Start works with a range of partners and collaborators whose organisational goals and vision align closely with the Challenge.
We would like to acknowledge the contributions of those who helped in our set-up phase:
Distinguished Professor Jane Harding of the Liggins Institute at the University of Auckland, Distinguished Professor Niki Davis of the University of Canterbury, Distinguished Professor Richard Faull of the University of Auckland, the late Emeritus Professor David Fergusson of the University of Otago and Cathy Wiley of the New Zealand Institute of Educational Research.