Research Areas

Developmental Origins of Health and Disease – Leader Professor Elaine Rush

A life course approach to health and chronic disease requires an understanding of the long-term effects of physical and social exposures during pre-pregnancy, gestation, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood and later adult life.  In women of child-bearing age the prevalence of obesity and gestational diabetes is increasing and may be higher than 50% in high-risk populations. Understanding how what has gone before affects what comes after involves contemporary longitudinal studies to inform policy and timely interventions.  

Current Projects:

  • Pacific Islands Families Study. Understanding growth from birth to 14 years. Funded by the Health Research Council.
  • Evaluation of the Under 5s Energize: A Ministry of Health project aimed at improving the maternal and early childhood nutrition and physical activity.
  • Evaluation of the roll out of Project Energize: A Waikato District Health Board / Sport Waikato project aimed at improving the health of primary school children
  • Lifecourse model of disease – from conception to chronic disease with attention to vitamin B12 in Indian – collaboration with Dr Ranjan Yajnik, Pune, India
  • Metformin vs insulin in treatment of gestational diabetes – follow up of child growth and development with Dr Janet Rowan, National Women's Health
  • Metformin in Gestational Diabetes follow up study (funded by the Auckland Medical Research Foundation)& Technology, Child Health Foundation) Food, food security and physical activity patterns in relation to growth
  • Evaluation of Project Energize: A Waikato District Health Board project aimed at improving the health of primary school children    


Giving Children Voice – Leader Dr Annette Dickinson 

The Charter on The Rights of Tamariki Children & Rangatahi Young People in Healthcare Services in Aoteroa New Zealand (Childrens Hospitals Australasia & Paediatric Society of New Zealand, 2010) states as a leading principle that children and young people should be heard, taken seriously and involved to the greatest possible extent in decision-making about their  health and health care.  Most studies of children's experiences of illness and health have relied on proxy data from adults this is despite evidence to suggest that children's and adults' views are not congruent and that children  can  be  competent and reliable informants with regard to health care. 

This program research focuses on giving children voice in regard to matters which affect their health.

Current Projects:

  • International children's illness and Symptom Study
  • Giving Children Voice in Healthcare Delivery – Examination of Art Based Research Tools


Optimising Health – Associate Professor Erica Hinckson & Dr Tineke Water


Current Projects:

SNAP! for Health: A family and school approach for special needs children.

Over 11,000 school-age children in New Zealand are living with intellectual disability. Total annual government-funded health care costs per child, including the costs of primary and secondary health care, are three and a half times higher in children with intellectual disability. It has been suggested that by increasing physical activity and improving nutrition in people with developmental disabilities, secondary health outcomes can be improved, thereby enhancing overall health and wellbeing. Early life prevention is one of the most effective ways to improve physical and psychological health and reduce social and financial burdens for families, communities and health care services. In NZ, lifestyle programmes are aimed at the general population, and are not appropriate for children with disability. Special schools present an opportunity for child-centred interventions to improve overall health, increase physical activity and improve nutrition. Our work focuses around the delivery of a nutrition and physical activity programme, SNAP! for Health (Special children, Nutrition, Activity, and Participation), to help optimise the lifecourse health of children with intellectual disabilities and their families.  The aim is to increase functional activity capacity, thus improving health and wellbeing in children with intellectual disabilities and reducing health care costs in the future.