About A Better Start

Healthy and successful lives for tamariki

Science Leadership

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

 

 Challenge Director

Deputy Director

Deputy Director

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

Director of UC Child Well-being Research Institute

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.

Theme leaders

Professor Rachael Taylor

Professor Rachael Taylor

HEALTHY WEIGHT | Theme leader

Karitane Fellow in Early Childhood Obesity, Otago University

Professor Rachael Taylor leads the Healthy Weight theme for A Better Start. Her areas of interest include determining how body weight is affected by sleep, diet and physical activity, particularly in childhood. Her current research includes work focused on sleep, feeding and infants, play, and prevention of overweight in infants.

Associate Professor Sarah Hetrick

Associate Professor Sarah Hetrick

RESILIENT TEENS | Theme leader

University of Auckland

Dr Sarah Hetrick is a clinical psychologist, Associate Professor of Youth Mental Health and Cure Kids Research Fellow in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland. She has a strong background in evidence synthesis, including as the joint Coordinating Editor of the Cochrane Common Mental Disorders Group. Much of the focus of her work is on youth depression and suicide prevention. She has had a key role in a large number of clinical trials and now leads work on digital interventions to assist young people to manage intense emotions, including suicidal ideation and to prevent self-harm.

Tania Cargo

Tania Cargo

RESILIENT TEENS | Theme leader

University of Auckland

Tania Cargo (Ngāti Maru, Ngāti Manu, Ngāpuhi) is a clinical psychologist and Senior Lecturer of Child and Adolescent Mental Health in the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland. She is well known in the Māori child and adolescent mental health setting and has a strong commitment to kaupapa Māori processes.

Professor Brigid McNeill

Professor Brigid McNeill

SUCCESSFUL LEARNING | Theme leader

School of Teacher Education,
University of Canterbury

Professor McNeill is an international expert on literacy development in children with childhood apraxia of speech. Her research also focuses on developing and evaluating methods to better prepare teachers to support children’s early literacy development. She is on the management team of the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour and leads its language acquisition research theme.

Associate Professor Barry Milne

Associate Professor Barry Milne

BIG DATA | Theme leader

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

Dr Milne focuses his research on longitudinal studies in New Zealand and the United Kingdom, particularly in the area of mental health. His areas of expertise include micro-simulation, administrative data, longitudinal studies, socio-economic and ethnic inequalities and child development.

Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes

Professor Helen Moewaka Barnes

MĀORI STRATEGY | Theme leader

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.

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane

Professor Angus Hikairo Macfarlane

KAIHAUTŪ MĀORI

Māori Education Research Lab,
University of Canterbury

Angus Macfarlane is Professor of Māori Research at the University of Canterbury. His research focuses on exploring Indigenous and sociocultural imperatives that influence education and psychology. Avid about Māori advancement, he has pioneered several theoretical frameworks associated with culturally responsive approaches for professionals working in these disciplines. His prolific publication portfolio and exemplary teaching abilities have earned him national and international standing in his field of scholarship. 

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.

Acknowledgement

We would like to acknowledge the contributions of those who helped in our set-up phase:

Distinguished Professor Dame 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.