About A Better Start

Healthy and successful lives for tamariki

Kia ora

The Challenge has more than 120 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 committment. 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.

Ngā mihi

Professor Wayne Cutfield
Challenge director

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.

Science Leadership

The challenge leadership team includes the Challenge Director, two Co-Directors and theme leaders for each of the five research areas.

 

 Challenge Director

Challenge Co-Directors

Professor Wayne Cutfield

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

Professor Gail Gillon

Pro-Vice Chancellor

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

Professor Barry Taylor

Dean of the Dunedin School of Medicine

Otago University

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

Healthy Weight

Professor Rachael Taylor
Karitane Fellow in Early Childhood Obesity,
Otago University

Resilient Teens

Associate Professor Sarah Hetrick

University of Auckland

Successful Literacy and Learning

Associate Professor Brigid McNeill
School of Teacher Education,
University of Canterbury

Big Data

Dr Rick Audas
Senior research fellow,
Dunedin School of Medicine,
University of Otago

Vision Mātauranga

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.

 

Chair

Professor Ken Ong

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.

Dr Hinemoa Elder

Dr Hinemoa Elder

Dr Elder works as a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and is a deputy member of the Mental Health Review Tribunal.

Professor Martin Wabitsch

Professor Martin Wabitsch

Professor Wabitsch is Head of Paediatric Endocrinology and Diabetology, University Clinic for Paediatrics, Ulm.

Andrew Sporle

Andrew Sporle

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 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 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

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 John Lynch

Professor Lynch is an epidemiologist and Professor of Public Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Adelaide

 

Board

The Challenge Board provide management oversight, advice and support to the Challenge and its leadership.

Chair

Pat Snedden

Pat Snedden

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.

Peter Crampton

Peter Crampton

Professor 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.

Monique Faleafa

Monique Faleafa

Dr Monique Faleafa, a clinical psychologist, is the founding Chief Executive of Le Va, a national NGO focussed on Pacific people’s well-being. She also contributes to her communities at governance levels.

Materoa Mar

Materoa Mar

Materoa Mar is of Nga Puhi, Ngati Whatua and Ngati Porou descent and is Director – Maori Health for a large Primary Healthcare Organisation based in Palmerston North and also leads the Whanau Ora Alliance Te Tihi o Ruahine.

Jim Metson

Jim Metson

Professor Jim Metson is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Auckland and the Chief Science Adviser for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Papaarangi Reid

Papaarangi Reid

Associate Professor Papaarangi is Tumuaki (Deputy Dean Maori) at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and Head of Te Kupenga Hauora Maori at the University of Auckland. She holds science and medical degrees from the University of Auckland and is a specialist in public health medicine. She has tribal affiliations to Te Rarawa in the North.

Colin Tukuitonga

Colin Tukuitonga

Dr Colin 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 NZ Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization. .

Kāhui Tūturu reference group

Our kāhui of Māori researchers and clinicians offers strategic input into the Challenge’s research and alignment with Vision Matāuranga.

Chair

Garrick Cooper

Garrick Cooper

Senior lecturer

School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Canterbury

Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes

Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes

Director of the Whariki, SHORE and Whariki Research Centre

Massey University

Dr Rees Tapsell

Dr Rees Tapsell

Senior lecturer

Forensic psychiatrist and the Director of Clinical Services for the Mental Health and Addictions Services of the Waikato District Health Board.

Dr Rawiri (David) Jansen

Dr Rawiri (David) Jansen

Clinical Director

National Hauora Coalition.
Ngati Raukawa descent.

Cath Rau

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

Dr Gerhard Sundborn

Senior Research Fellow

Epidemiology and biostatistics, Faculty of Medical and Health Science, University of Auckland.

Hilda Fa'asalele

Hilda Fa'asalele

Chief Advisor

Pacific Health, Ministry of Health

Dr Mele Taumoepeau

Dr Mele Taumoepeau

Chairperson Health Research Council Pacific Committee

Lecturer, University of Otago

Mark Tulia

Mark Tulia

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.

Cure kids

Cure kids is a national child health research charity. In 2017, Cure Kids partnered with A Better Start in a joint $2.8 contestable funding round.

VHIN

VHIN is the Virtual Health Information Network, The VHIN is a network of researchers, analysts and other professionals who use health data to generate insights that support the health and wellness of all New Zealanders.

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei logo

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei  A Better Start has a memorandum of joint objectives with Whai Maia the cultural, social and environmental wing of the Auckland iwi.

Acknowledgement

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, Emeritus Professor David Fergusson of the University of Otago and Cathy Wiley of the New Zealand Institute of Educational Research.