School of Population Health


Advanced ageing research at the School of Population Health

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Professor Ngaire Kerse

Professor Ngaire Kerse is Head of School of Population Health and a Professor of General Practice and Primary Health Care. 

A graduate of Otago Medical School, Ngaire is a general practitioner with training in geriatric medicine and she also has a PhD from the University of Melbourne in health promotion for older people.

She is recognised as an international expert in three interrelated areas of research: maximising health for older people; falls and older people; and the impact of physical activity on development of disability.  She is a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow in Health Care Policy and Practice. Her Fellowship in 2002-2003 explored, from the perspective of older people and their families, the extent to which cultural differences related to health and health care beliefs affected care delivery in residential care settings.  Ngaire was awarded a Distinguished Fellowship of the Royal New Zealand College of GPs in 2011.

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In 2007, Ngaire led the BRIGHT study (Brief Risk Identification Geriatric Health Tool) to investigate methods for healthcare professionals, such as GPs and aged services coordinators, to stay in closer contact with their older patients so that health problems might be identified at an earlier stage, and interventions put in place to reduce disability in those at risk. By improving the dialogue between healthcare providers and their older patients, the study sought to increase identification of those people most at risk and reduce the long term care and suffering that might needlessly occur.

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Since 2010, Ngaire has been co-principal investigator with Dr Lorna Dyall (Principal investigator - Māori) of a longitudinal study of Māori and non-Māori New Zealanders entitled 'Life and Living in Advanced Age: a Cohort Study (LiLACS NZ) - Te Puāwaitanga o Ngā Tapuwae Kia Ora Tonu'.  The LiLACS initiative is a partnership between Māori and non-Māorito engage 421 Māori born in 1920-1930 and 516 non-Māori born in 1925 in a cohort study aiming to identify predictors of successful advanced ageing.

The goals of the research are to help people to plan better for their own health and wellbeing in later life, to allow people of advanced age in New Zealand to share their wisdom with future generations, and to inform the development of local and national policies to benefit older people.

“Our population is growing older and we need to understand how to help New Zealanders age well,” notes Professor Kerse. “Right now we know very little about what contributes to a long and healthy life in this country, and international research can tell us only so much.”

“We need to understand ageing in the context of our own culture, ethnicities, social structures, environment, and health status, and it’s essential to include the experiences of both Māori and non-Māori. Our study, which is the first about advanced age in New Zealand, aims to honour and learn from the experiences of our elders.”

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LiLACS participants and members of the research team

With Drs Lorna Dyall and Mere Kepa, the study facilitates both Māori and non Māori involvement through local Māori and health provider groups. The project has involved Māori and non-Māori masterate and doctoral students, and has engaged communities to conduct the research and build research capacity in the community. Observations show that Māori cultural practices may be related to quality of life, along with health and social support.

Initially funded by the Health Research Council and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga (New Zealand’s Indigenous Centre of Excellence hosted by the University of Auckland), the project received additional funding support in April 2013 from the Ministry of Health and the University of Auckland.

Read the announcement as well as further details about the study and preliminary findings in a statement by Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia on 3 April 2013: Funding for research on what helps us live longer lives.

Further reading:


Selected recent journal publications: