About A Better Start

Healthy and successful lives for tamariki

Kia ora

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.

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 Deputy 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

Resilient Teens

Tania Cargo
University of Auckland

Successful Learning

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

Big Data

Associate Professor Barry Milne
Director,
Centre of Methods and Policy Application in the Social Sciences (COMPASS),
University of Auckland

Kaupapa Māori

Professor Helen Moewaka-Barnes
Helen Moewaka Barnes (Te Kapotai, Ngapuhi-nui-tonu) is the Director of Whāriki, SHORE and Whariki Research Centre Massey University. She has worked on research in many areas; more recently relationships between the health of people and the health of environments, sexual coercion, alcohol and youth well-being and identity. Her work is both qualitative and quantitative and she is also involved in developing research within Māori paradigms.

 

Kaihautu Māori

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.

 

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.
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

 

Dr Ridvan Firestone

Dr Ridvan Firestone

Dr Riz Firestone’s research involves investigations on health inequalities and inequities, specifically non-communicable diseases among Pacific people in NZ. She also have a wider focus on Pacific and Māori community-based health research, particularly in relation to developing and tailoring interventions with Pacific and Māori communities.

 

Board

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

Acting Chair

Materoa Mar

Materoa Mar

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 Peter Crampton

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.
Professor Christa Fouche

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

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 Clark

Amber Clark

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.

 

Sharon Shea

Sharon Shea

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.

Pat Snedden

Pat Snedden

Board Chair

Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 12 May 2020
Professor Jim Metson

Professor Jim Metson

Board tenure: 1 January 2016 – 31 December 2018
Dr Monique Faleafa

Dr Monique Faleafa

Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 31 December 2019
Distinguished Professor Dame Jane Harding

Distinguished Professor Dame Jane Harding

Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 31 December 2015

 

 

Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid

Associate Professor Papaarangi Reid

Board tenure: 1 August 2015 – 30 April 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.

Chair

Garrick Cooper

Garrick Cooper

Senior lecturer

School of Māori and Indigenous Studies, University of Canterbury
Dr Rawiri (David) Jansen

Dr Rawiri (David) Jansen

Clinical Director

National Hauora Coalition.
Ngati Raukawa descent.
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.

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