A Better Start




Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment


Barry Milne, Nichola Shackleton, Jessica McLay, Stephanie D’Souza


University of Auckland: Wayne Cutfield and Sally Merry

University of Canterbury: Gail Gillon

University of Otago: Barry Taylor, Rick Audas, Sheree Gibb, Jesse Kokaua, Nick Bowden, Rose Richards, Justine Camp


A Better Start’s mission is to find better ways to predict, prevent and treat obesity, learning and mental health problems in children and teenagers. We are one of the National Science Challenges designed to find solutions to large, complex issues facing New Zealanders. Our research strategy is new for New Zealand because it will target at-risk children early, engage their communities, draw together experts from different disciplines and institutions, and take a holistic approach to obesity, learning and mental health difficulties, which are usually studied in isolation.




Bowden N, Thabrew H, Kokaua J, Audas R, Milne B, Smiler K, Stace H, Taylor B, Gibb S (2020). Autism Spectrum Disorder / Takiwātanga: An Integrated Data Infrastructure-based approach to ASD Research in New Zealand. Autism: International Journal of Research and Practice 24(8): 2213–2227, doi:10.1177/1362361320939329.

D’Souza S, Bowden N, Gibb S, Shackleton N, Audas R, Hetrick S, Taylor B, Milne B (2020). Medication dispensing for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder to New Zealand youth. NZMJ 133(1522), https://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal-articles/medication-dispensing-for-attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-to-new-zealand-youth.

Leong KSW, McLay J, Derraik JGB, Gibb S, Shackleton N, Taylor RW, Glover M, Audas R, Taylor B, Milne BJ, Cutfield W (2020). Prenatal and childhood antibiotics exposure and obesity at age 4 years. JAMA Network Open 3(1):e1919681, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.19681.

Slykerman RF, Li E, Milne B (2020). Birth by caesarean section and educational achievement in adolescents. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, doi:10.1111/ajo.13276.

Gibb S, Milne B, Shackleton N, Taylor B, Audas R (2019). How universal are universal preschool health checks? An observational study using routine data from New Zealand’s B4 School Check. BMJ Open 2019;9:e025535, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2018-025535.

Gibb S, Shackleton N, Audas R, Taylor B, Swinburn B, Zhu T, Taylor R, Derraik JGB, Cutfield W, Milne BJ (2019). Child obesity prevalence across communities in New Zealand: 2010-2016. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 43(2), doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12881.

Milne B, Atkinson J, Blakely T, Day H, Douwes J, Gibb S, Nicolson M, Shackleton N, Sporle A, Teng A (2019). Data Resource Profile: The New Zealand Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). International Journal of Epidemiology 48(3), 1027. doi:10.1093/ije/dyz054.

Rapata H, Cutfield W, Milne BJ, Shackleton N, Waetford C, Richards R, Taylor R, Derraik JGB, Camp J (2019). Stable prevalence of obesity among Ngāti Whātua 4-year-old children in 2010–2016. Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 49(4), 449–458, doi:10.1080/03036758.2019.1691613.

Shackleton N, Derraik JGB, Audas R, Taylor R, Glover M, Morton S, Tautolo E-S, Kokaua J, Taylor B, Cutfield W, Milne B (2019). Decomposing ethnic differences in body mass index and obesity rates among New Zealand pre-schoolers. Int J Obes 43, 1951–1960, doi:10.1038/s41366-019-0390-4.

Schluter PJ, Audas R, Kokaua J, McNeill B, Taylor B, Milne BJ, Gillon G (2018). The efficacy of preschool developmental indicators as a screen for early primary school-based literacy interventions. Child Development 91(1):e59–e76, doi:10.1111/cdev.13145.

Shackleton N, Milne BJ, Audas R, Derraik JGB, Zhu T, Taylor RW, Morton SMB, Glover M, Cutfield WS, Taylor B (2017). Improving rates of overweight,
obesity, and extreme obesity in New Zealand 4-year-old children in 2010–2016.
Pediatric Obesity, doi:10.1111/ijpo.12260.