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A BETTER START
NEWS AND UPDATE
NOVEMBER 2020
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 - Improving the health and lives of our tamariki -
  • Message from the Director
  • Congratulations to Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki and Professor David Tipene-Leach
  • Our upcoming webinar - register now
  • Major research funding news
  • New research findings into medication of children and young people with autism & ADHD
  • The Gluckman Medal Award 
  • Meet the researcher - Professor Rachael Taylor
  • In the media 
Kia ora,
We’re almost at the end of 2020, and probably many of us will be breathing a quiet sigh of relief. There has been plenty of uncertainty and disruption caused by Covid-19, but in spite of this we have been extremely fortunate to be able to continue our important research work and progress key projects at A Better Start.
Very early on we developed a business continuity plan that largely eliminated any adverse impact on the Challenge and on each strategic project, ensuring that research could carry on unaffected and we could continue to work closely with our key partners.
Although Covid-19 prevented us from hosting a science symposium this year, as an alternative we have developed three webinar series (with three webinars in each; nine in total), which I’m excited to announce are now underway. We are partnering with Cure Kids, The Paediatric Society of New Zealand, Plunket, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and the NZ Principals Association to host the series, which will address child health, early childhood wellbeing and early learning. 
The webinars will be evidence-based and relevant to Challenge researchers and our stakeholder members, further strengthening relationships with our collaborating partners.
Our first webinar - The Digital Dilemma - was held in October and looked at the potential pitfalls and gains in using technology to support mental wellbeing and resilience in our children and young people. It was a great success.
Next up is Our Children In A Covid World on November 25 at 12.30pm. Led by the Paediatric Society of NZ's Nicola Austin and myself, it will focus on the unexpected consequences - both positive and negative - of Covid-19 on our young people.
Another seven webinars are planned for the first quarter of 2021. We’ll keep you up to date in our upcoming newsletters.
Ngā mihi,
Wayne Cutfield, Director
A Better Start: E Tipu e Rea National Science Challenge 
Congratulations to Dr Waikaremoana Waitoki, who has been appointed President of the New Zealand Psychological Society. Dr Waitoki is the co-lead of A Better Start's strategic research project, Raranga raranga taku takapau: hapū ora for tamariki, looking at addressing inequities in Māori maternal healthcare. Read more about the Raranga project.
Congratulations also to Professor David Tipene-Leach, who has received a Royal Society Te Apārangi award, recognising excellent invention and creation. Professor Tipene-Leach led a team applying mātauranga Māori to the issue of sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) and the development of the wahakura bassinet. He is also involved in our Raranga project.
REGISTER NOW FOR OUR UPCOMING LIVE WEBINAR
Hosted by A Better Start and The Paediatric Society of New Zealand, Our Children In A Covid World will look at the unexpected consequences of Covid-19 on our young people. From delayed immunisations to fewer ED presentations, the impacts – both positive and negative – are far-reaching.
Our speakers include three of the country's top professors in childhood health – Professors Stuart Dalziel, Peter McIntyre and Nikki Turner – and you'll get the chance to join what is sure to be a fascinating and educative Q&A session.
This is a webinar not to be missed! REGISTER HERE
NEW RESEARCH FINDINGS
Medication of children and young adults with ADHD and autism
are the focus of recent papers by A Better Start's Big Data researchers

Nick Bowden's paper, published in the Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders journal, demonstrates the significant and disproportionate medication burden that New Zealand children and young people with autism experience. 
Read Nick's paper

Stephanie D'Souza's paper was published in the New Zealand Medical Journal and looks at prescribing rates for young people with ADHD and the differences in medication dispensing patterns for particular population groups (age, gender, ethnicity).
Read Stephanie's paper
THE GLUCKMAN MEDAL AWARD CEREMONY
PROFESSOR WAYNE CUTFIELD
A Better Start Director Wayne Cutfield will be officially awarded The Gluckman Medal - the University of Auckland's premier medical research award - on November 25.
As a researcher, Professor Cutfield's major contribution has been to show the link between common early life events and long-term health risks. These events include children born too early, too late, too small and too big. His work has led to better diagnosis and management of poor metabolic control in childhood.
In recent years he has extended his research into the role of the gut microbiome and our health, including gut bug treatment of adolescent obesity which featured in the hit TV3 documentary series The Good Sh*t.
As part of the award ceremony, Professor Cutfield will present his lecture entitled “Who ordered the doughnut - you or your gut bugs?”

MAJOR RESEARCH FUNDING

Every child should have the best possible start in life.
That’s why A Better Start and Cure Kids are committing $4 million
to establish a joint research funding round to improve the
wellbeing of our tamariki. The main research areas are
healthy weight, successful learning and mental resilience.
Keep an eye out for more information in next month's newsletter.

FIVE MINUTES WITH
PROFESSOR RACHAEL TAYLOR

Meet Professor Rachael Taylor, who leads A Better Start's strategic
research project, Moemoea, which looks at sleep, health, communication
& wellbeing of pepi and their wh
ānau. 
 
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT MOEMOEA AND WHY THIS PROJECT IS IMPORTANT?
Getting sufficient good quality sleep is critical for children to grow well, feel good, and cope with daily life. Interventions in predominantly European populations have shown that sleep interventions in infancy can substantially reduce the risk of overweight in childhood. However, little attention has been paid to developing sleep and wellbeing interventions that meet the needs of Māori and Pacific whānau, despite these groups being at greater risk of the health outcomes associated with poor sleep.
WHAT STAGE IS YOUR RESEARCH AT?
We are currently working with Māori and Pasifika whānau and organisations to determine why and how sleep affects their health, and what would help them to improve sleep in their pepi and tamariki, before undertaking an intervention trial in 2021.
AS A RESEARCHER, WHAT MAKES YOU EXCITED ABOUT THIS PROJECT?
Working with communities to make a real difference to their lives by developing resources that are attractive, feasible and desired – and that have the potential to improve wellbeing, sleep and connectedness among whānau.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT WORKING WITH A BETTER START?
The ability to work collaboratively across a wide range of disciplines that I have not previously been involved with, and the focus on making a real difference.
THE WELLBEING OF PEPI AND WH
ĀNAU IS A KEY FOCUS OF YOUR WORK. WHAT DO YOU DO TO LOOK AFTER YOUR OWN WELLBEING?
Sleep well of course (well I try to anyway), being active, spending time with friends and family.
THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED? Live life to the fullest.
A GREAT BOOK YOU HAVE RECENTLY READ? Anything by Karin Slaughter.
THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU WOULD LOVE TO MEET (LIVING OR NOT)? Michelle Obama, Martin Luther King, Elvis, Rosa Park, Cleopatra.


• Each newsletter we'll introduce you to one of our researchers and find out more about them and their work. (Photo courtesy of the University of Otago)
 - IN THE MEDIA -
A Better Start researchers provide expert commentary on Challenge
priority research themes and issues affecting New Zealanders.
Successful Learning 
Study shows change is needed to help Pasifika children succeed
Research highlights poor language skills among Christchurch children 
New kindergarten study aimed at improving early literacy among NZ children
Professor Gail Gillon talks to Waatea news about A Better Start's kindergarten study 

Big Data
Stephanie D'Souza's Newshub interview on ADHD medication use in NZ 
NZ Herald article on rates of ADHD medication prescribing 

Healthy Weight
New study to investigate what babies are eating now - a decade on from POI study
Professor Rachael Taylor responds to Judith Collins' comments on obesity

More...
Dr Matire Harwood on why families in South Auckland are especially vulnerable to a Coronavirus outbreak 
RECENT PUBLICATIONS
A full list of A Better Start's publications can be found on our website
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