Latest HRC funding for School projects

11 June 2014

Health research grants totalling more than $28 million for University of Auckland research projects, programmes, feasibility studies and work by emerging researchers, were announced by the Health Research Council of New Zealand earlier this month. The following SoPH researchers had projects funded by the grants.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris (SOPH) - Effectiveness of maternal pertussis booster in pregnancy - outcomes in infants (Partnership Programme Funders HRC and Ministry of Health. $104,142, 12 months).

Whooping cough is a difficult disease to control and is particularly serious in infants, especially those too young to vaccinate. This research investigates the effectiveness of providing pregnant women a dose of whooping cough vaccine to prevent or lessen the disease in their infants.

Transfer of antibodies through the placenta in pregnancy is expected to offer some passive protection until the infant is protected by childhood immunisation starting at six weeks of age.

The study will firstly use data for all births between 2011-2013, all infants who were diagnosed with whooping cough and whether or not their mothers received the vaccine in pregnancy.

Secondly, it will take a small blood sample from a subgroup of infants at several time points to see how well they respond to their own vaccinations.

Knowledge from this research will help inform the New Zealand immunisation programme and better control of whooping cough.

Dr Helen Petousis-Harris (SOPH) - Feasibility study of human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, awareness and vaccine acceptability in men (HRC funded $149,588, 12 months).

As well as causing cervical cancer in women, human papillomavirus (HPV) is associated with other cancers including cancers of the mouth, throat, penis and anus in men, with a particularly high incidence among men who have sex with men (MSM).

Many issues relating to HPV and vaccination in males are poorly understood in the New Zealand context.

The objective of this feasibility study is to estimate HPV prevalence, awareness, and vaccine acceptability among three subpopulations of interest: HIV positive MSM, other MSM, and heterosexual males.

Participants will be recruited from primary health care and outpatient settings in Auckland via screening and sequential sampling with quotas, because sexual orientation data is not routinely collected.

The estimates of HPV prevalence and response rates will inform the design (sample size, duration) of a larger study to measure baseline HPV prevalence and monitor vaccine impact among these populations in the absence of alternative surveillance sources

Professor Boyd Swinburn (Epidemiology and Biostatistics) - Food environments in New Zealand: Policies and impacts on health and equity (HRC funded $1,162,422, 36 months).

An International Network for Food and Obesity/non-communicable diseases (NCDs) Research, Monitoring and Action Support (INFORMAS) has been established to monitor and benchmark food environments globally and support actions to reduce obesity, NCDs and their related inequalities. INFORMAS will be fully implemented in New Zealand as the first national survey of the healthiness of food environments and the degree of implementation of the policies that influence them.

In addition, for four key modules (food prices, provision, promotion and retail), 'environmental equity' indicators will be developed to assess progress towards reducing diet-related health inequalities.

New Zealand food environments will be compared with those of other countries as a first step towards global benchmarking of food environments and their related policies.

Effective policy responses will be identified to improve the healthiness of food environments, and this baseline INFORMAS database will ensure that the impact of future food and nutrition policies can be evaluated.