A Better Start Annual Symposium

Wednesday 10th April 2024

Tākiri mai te haeata, he ara i whano ai  

Looking into the Future; Child Health, Wellbeing and Learning

We are pleased to announce that A Better Start, E Tipu e Rea – National Science Challenge will hold our annual symposium on Wednesday 10th April 2024 in Auckland.

The team at A Better Start have been planning an engaging programme for our symposium, as we reach the end of nearly 10 years of the Challenge.  There will also be a dinner in recognition of the mahi and progress that has been achieved, and we hope all those invited will be able to join us for some kai to celebrate.

Please make sure to check back for further details, for now we are pleased to announce our Keynote Speakers Professor Harriet Hiscock and Professor Ken Ong.

As well as Dr Claire Achmad, Chief Children’s Commissioner at Mana Mokopuna, who we are honored to announce will be giving the opening address. 

Ngā mihi nui,
Wayne Cutfield
Director of A Better Start, E Tipu e Rea – A National Science Challenge

To view the 2024 Symposium programme click here

Any questions, please email us at contact@abetterstart.nz

 Pictured above: ABS Director Wayne Cutfield, Deputy Director Gail Gillon and Deputy Director Barry Taylor.

Dr Claire Achmad

Dr Claire Achmad

Chief Children's Commissioner

Dr Claire Achmad will be giving the opening address.

Claire is a recognised advocate for children in Aotearoa New Zealand and internationally, having worked in a wide range of areas relating to children’s rights, including from legal, policy and practice perspectives.

Before becoming Chief Children’s Commissioner, she served as Chief Executive Officer of Social Service Providers Te Pai Ora o Aotearoa, and in that role championed the aspirations and outcomes of children, rangatahi and whānau and community-based social service providers, strongly grounded in a focus on equity.

Claire holds a doctorate in international children’s rights law from Leiden University, the Netherlands, and has published internationally on a range of children’s rights issues. She also holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Auckland and is a University of Auckland 40 Under 40 Honoree.

Previously, Claire worked for children’s NGOs and international organisations in Aotearoa, Australia and Europe, held a senior role within Te Kāhui Tika Tangata the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, and practised as in-house legal counsel in the New Zealand government. She was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand in 2007.

Professor Harriet Hiscock

Professor Harriet Hiscock

Keynote Address: Translation Beyond Traditional Methods

Professor Harriet Hiscock is a consultant paediatrician and Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences. She is Associate Director, Research at the Centre for Community Child Health, Director of The Royal Children’s Hospital Health Services Research Unit and Group Leader, Health Services at Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.

Professor Hiscock’s research focuses on developing, testing and implementing new approaches to (i) keep children out of hospital; (ii) reduce low-value (wasteful) care; and (iii) integrate health, social and education services to improve health and wellbeing for children, including those living with family adversity.

Harriet completed her medical degree at Monash University (1st class honours) before going on to complete her paediatric training at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. During this time, she completed a doctorate at the University of Melbourne entitled: “Reducing infant sleep problems and postnatal depression; a randomised controlled trial” and a Graduate Diploma in Epidemiology and Biostatistics (hons).

Harriet is part of the Scientific Advisory Board for A Better Start National Science Challenge.

Professor Ken Ong

Professor Ken Ong

Keynote Address: Trends in Overweight: Encouragement for Further Action

Professor Ong is the co-leader of the Growth and Development Programme at the MRC Epidemiology Unity, University of Cambridge.

Professor Ken Ong co-leads the Unit’s Early Life Aetiology and Mechanisms of Diabetes and Related Metabolic Disorders programme with Dr John Perry. His research in the Unit and at the Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge identified rapid postnatal growth, weight gain and early reproductive timing as determinants of, and also potential targets for the prevention of, childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and related disorders. His programme studies the mechanisms that underlie these developmental trajectories to disease risk. He works closely with the Unit’s other research programmes in the aetiology of diabetes and related metabolic disorders and in the development and testing of behavioural interventions to prevent childhood obesity.

As well as his research work, Ken is an honorary consultant paediatric endocrinologist and the clinical lead for childhood obesity at the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and he chairs the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s Subgroup on Maternal and Child Nutrition. He obtained his PhD in Paediatrics following research at the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, using large population-based studies to explore gene-environment interactions in fetal and early childhood growth. Ken has been with the MRC Epidemiology Unit since 2005.

Ken is also the Chair of the Science Advisory Panel for A Better Start National Science Challenge.


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