Paediatric food-related anaphylaxis

Project code:  MHS078

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Bridget Kool

Background

Food allergy has emerged as an important public health issue in high income countries in the last 20 years, with evidence of increase based on hospital admission rates for food allergy/anaphylaxis, community-based studies an increase in rates of prescription of allergy related medications such as infant hypoallergenic formula and adrenaline auto injectors. The prevalence of food allergy is higher in children than in adults; this is because most food allergy develops in early childhood and most children will outgrow their food allergies, particularly to egg and milk, usually by school-age. However, peanut, tree-nut, fish and shellfish allergies are more likely to persist for life. While a number of studies from overseas have shown evidence of increases in food allergy/anaphylaxis, little New Zealand specific information is available upon which to base public policy.

Aim

The aim of this project is to describe the incidence of paediatric food-related anaphylaxis hospital admissions in New Zealand

Methods

A descriptive analysis of paediatric (0-15 years of age) admissions to hospital in NZ for food-related anaphylaxis over a 10 year period will be undertaken. The Ministry of Health’s hospital discharge data will be reviewed for the most recent 10 year period. Trends over time will be explored and the profile of those admitted will be described including, socio-demographic characteristics, food allergen, hospital course (e.g. length of stay, ICU days, and discharge destination).

Skills

  • Critical review of relevant literature
  • Analysis of routinely collected data (including data cleaning and coding)
  • Preparation of a scientific paper for submission to a peer-reviewed journal

The cost of healthy and current, less healthy diets in New Zealand

Project code:  MHS113

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Unhealthy diets contribute to non-communicable diseases. The cost of food is a major determinant of food choices. The variation of the cost of diets is important but currently unknown. This project will assess whether there is a significant difference in the cost between healthy and current, less healthy diets in New Zealand and how this difference might change with different policies in place (e.g. taxes on unhealthy foods or subsidies for healthy foods). A software programme is being developed to determine the distribution of the cost of the healthy and the current diet based on a list of commonly consumed foods and different sets of constraints, such as nutrient and food group targets and intakes. However, to test and use this programme, comprehensive data on food prices are needed. There are a range of factors that may affect food prices, e.g. area (rural/urban), area deprivation level (more and less deprived), type of outlet (supermarket, dairy, farmers market, fruit and vegetable store) and chain, season, type of price (original/discount price) and type of product (generic/branded product). Twelve supermarkets will be randomly selected from across the Auckland regional Council area; 4 of each major chain and 2 each in a more and less deprived area. It will be ensured that about 3-4 supermarkets in rural areas are included. For each of the twelve supermarkets, the closest fruit and vegetable store and farmers market will be selected. The areas in the Auckland region with the lowest access to healthy produce will be determined, and across those, twelve dairies will be randomly selected (of which 6 in more and 6 in less deprived areas). Commonly consumed foods have been determined from the NZ Adult Nutrition Survey for the general population and specific population groups. The cheapest price per 100g will be collected for all those foods in the twelve supermarkets (including discount prices), and for the available foods in the twelve dairies, fruit and vegetable stores and farmers markets. For 6 of the twelve supermarkets (two of each major chain) and the dairies and fresh fruit and vegetable stores and markets, prices will be collected over time and for 6 of the 12 supermarkets prices for both the cheapest branded as generic product will be collected. The prices data will be used to determine the cost differential between healthy and current diets and the impact of several scenarios (e.g. adding a tax or subsidy component to the price of certain foods, looking at Maori and Pacific diets specifically) on the differential. This project can contribute to the policy debate on taxes/subsidies and the development of education tools about the cost of food.

Skills

  • Data collection
  • Data management
  • Data analysis
  • Food policy

Exposure of adolescents to unhealthy food advertising on Facebook in New Zealand

Project code:  MHS114

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

An online tool has been created which automatically gathers advertisement data from a participant’s Facebook Newsfeeds, sends it to a central database for analysis, and provides the participant with some feedback about their exposure to healthy and unhealthy food and beverage advertising on Facebook. The aim of the summer studentship would be to recruit participants in different ways and apply and test this tool for large scale data collection on exposure of adolescents to food advertising on Facebook in New Zealand. In addition, the feedback tool will be evaluated with a sample of participants.

Skills

  • Data collection
  • Data management
  • Data analysis
  • Food policy

Test of an app to empower people and local change agents for healthier food places in New Zealand

Project code:  MHS115

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

A smartphone app is being developed for crowdsourcing data on the healthiness of foods advertised and sold in local community settings (i.e., schools, hospitals, supermarkets, takeaways, sport clubs) and outdoors (i.e., around schools). The data will be fed back automatically to local ‘change agents’ (such as schools, retailers, sport clubs, local Government) in the form of medals (gold-silver-bronze). This way, settings can be benchmarked against each other. The app aims to empower New Zealand people to encourage and support local ‘change agents’ to make positive, healthy changes to foods advertised and sold in their community or wider region. The app will be launched later in the year 2016. The summer student will be specifically involved in the evaluation of the use of the app by different groups of the population and what works/what doesn't and why/why not. Based on the testing, the app can be further improved.

Skills

  • Data collection
  • Data management
  • Data analysis
  • Food policy
  • Health technology

Creating a population cartogram for visualising geographical inequalities in health and social outcomes at the Lower Zone level

Project code:  MHS130

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Jinfeng Zhao

Urban areas are often densely populated and the size of their land areas on administrative maps is often relatively small and thus difficult to see on a normal geographical map. This may mislead readers and prevent them from visualising regional or national patterns at the small area level.

Population cartograms, which depict the size of an area proportionate to its population value, provide a simple and powerful means to reveal patterns and disparities in population related data. Despite their effectiveness, cartograms are not very commonly used in the visualisation of population health data, because the shape of land masses is distorted. However they deserve wider exposure.

This project aims to develop a population weighted cartogram at the Lower Zone level as a base geography to reveal spatial disparities in various health and social outcomes. Lower Zones are a small-area geography with populations ranging from 500 to 1000 level that were developed specifically for health and social analyses.

A summer student will contribute to a literature review, geographical data analyses, creation of a NZ cartogram, visualising certain health and social outcomes (e.g. disease rates and their association with smoking rates and area level deprivation), and the development of a research paper. Previous GIS or cartographic experience is a bonus, but not a constraint. Hands on GIS tutorials can be provided to the selected candidate.
 

Skills

  • Literature review
  • Hands on experience of geographical data analysis, creating cartograms and mapping
  • Report writing and preparing manuscript for publication

The relationship between allocation of time and health status

Project code:  MHS132

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Dr Jinfeng Zhao

Supervisor

 

The allocation of time is relevant to health status in many ways: 1 It is shaped by the vagaries of ones’ daily living, so it is a major determinant of people’s well-being. 2. Time is a finite and scarce resource, so allocating time for various activities is always a challenge. For example, full-time working mothers have the lowest levels of leisure time and leisure satisfaction, and this may causing feelings of ‘‘time poverty’’, which are usually associated with negative consequences for people’s health. 3. Time is required to maintain health and to obtain medical care, and good health increases the amount of time available to produce money earnings.


Time use studies capture detailed and comprehensive information about people’s daily life in terms of what, when, where and in what sequence things are being done. In addition, time use surveys determine why, with whom, and in what frame of mind particular activities were done during the day. This makes time use surveys important contributors to improve knowledge regarding the quality of life and health status. However, limited attention has been paid to investigating the relationship between health status and how people make use of their time. This is reflected in both a lack of relevant research/literature and a lack of data that contain information regarding both health and time use.


The aims of this research are:
1. To conduct a systematic review of the literature regarding associations between time use and health status, and the design of time use surveys.
2. To develop a time use survey questionnaire for individuals to record detailed information regarding time use, health status, health behaviours (e.g. smoking, drinking, diet and physical activeness), access to healthcare and the locations of time use activities using GPS enabled devices over one randomly selected 24-hour day.


The methodology developed in this project will be used for a future grant application to collect time use and health status data in order to analyse the relationship between the allocation of time and health status in a New Zealand context.


A summer student will contribute to a literature review, the design of a time use survey questionnaire, and the development of a research paper.

Skills

  • Questionnaire design
  • Critical thinking
  • Documentation and report writing
  • Preparing manuscripts for publication
  • Exposure to a new stream of inter-disciplinary (public health and time use) research

Evaluation of the Cook Islands Injury Surveillance System

Project code:  MHS134

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Cook Islands

Supervisor

Josephine Herman

This project is based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands (5 weeks minimum), a New Zealand realm country, and seeks to introduce students to injury research in a low- and middle-income Pacific island setting.

In 2016, the Cook Islands Ministry of Health established the Cook Islands Injury Surveillance System (CIIS). The design of CIIS draws from the World Health Organization Injury Surveillance Guidelines (2001) and the Fiji Injury Surveillance in Hospitals (FISH) system, the first study-specific database established in the Pacific as part of the Traffic Related Injury in the Pacific (TRIP) research project. While the burden of road traffic injuries in the Cook Islands is significant, the lack of robust data has been an important barrier to the development of evidence-based context-specific preventative measures. The aim of CIIS is to better quantify the burden and risk factors for road crash-related injuries and therefore relevant interventions.

The aim of the study is to assess the quality of the CIIS according to the evaluation framework designed specifically for CIIS and to identify areas requiring further modification. The student will be required to undertake a literature review of the published literature regarding evaluation frameworks for injury surveillance systems particularly in low- and middle-income countries, and apply the CIIS evaluation framework rating criteria for data quality, operational and practical characteristics for a specified time (four weeks). Interviews with key informants as well as secondary analysis of crash injury data in the Annual Cook Islands Ministry of Health Statistical Bulletin (1990-2015, demographic profile and injury characteristics) may be required to establish context.

Skills

Skills development: literature review, evaluation research, quantitative analysis using Microsoft Excel, injury research in a Pacific island country.

Road crashes and helmets in the Cook Islands

Project code:  MHS135

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Cook Islands

Supervisor

Josephine Herman

This project is based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands (5 weeks minimum), a New Zealand realm country, and seeks to introduce students to injury research in a low- and middle-income Pacific island setting.

The burden of road traffic injuries in the Cook Islands is significant with the majority due to head injuries sustained in crashes involving motorbike riders. Many of these survivors are critically injured and often require transfer to Auckland, New Zealand for further care. Helmets are an established cost effective preventative measure however enforcement of legislation to use these in the Cook Islands has been difficult.

The aim of the study is to describe the history of helmet use/non-use in the Cook Islands as it relates to road crashes and to identify key lessons for the road safety community. The student will be required to undertake a literature review of the published and grey literature on road traffic crash-related injuries and helmets in the Cook Islands, conduct interviews with key informants as well as secondary analysis of crash injury data in the Annual Cook Islands Ministry of Health Statistical Bulletin (1990-2015, demographic profile and injury characteristics).

Skills

Skills development: literature review, quantitative analysis using Microsoft Excel, injury research in a Pacific island country.

The health of Asian secondary school students: key indicators and changes over a decade

Project code:  MHS138

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Roshini Peiris-John

Our group (The Adolescent Health Research Group) has carried out comprehensive surveys of 8,000-10,000 high school students in 2001, 2007 and 2012.  We are now looking to analyse and report on the health and wellbeing of Asian young people in New Zealand, comparing trends over time. The overall aim of this project is to describe the demographic characteristics of Asian young people (age, sex, ethnicity, deprivation, urban /rural) for each wave of the Youth2000 survey series, to describe the support systems/environments for Asian students and describe key indicators of health and wellbeing for Asian students in each of the three waves. The project will also explore the relationship between Asian cultural identity markers and the health status of young Asian New Zealanders.

The project will suit a student interested in youth health, particularly (but not limited to) Asian youth health, and one who is motivated in learning skills related to developing a research publication. The project will also provide the opportunity to help guide this nationally and internationally important youth health survey (the next survey being planned for 2018) and make contacts with a leading youth health research team.

 

Skills

The student will help us develop a paper on the Youth2000 survey findings. This will include: reviewing the relevant literature, basic data analysis and reporting, and drafting a research paper.  

Skills to be gained include:

  • Literature search and review
  • Basic skills in data analysis
  • Collaboration with a team of experienced investigators
  • Contribution to write-up for publication

Injury-related rehabilitation and disability services in the Cook Islands

Project code:  MHS141

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Cook Islands

Supervisor

Dr Bridget Kool

Outline

This project is based in Rarotonga, Cook Islands (5 weeks minimum), a New Zealand realm country, and seeks to introduce students to injury and disability research in a low- and middle-income Pacific island setting.

The burden of road crash-related injury and disability in the Cook Islands is significant with survivors either receiving rehabilitative and/or longer term disability services locally or in Auckland, New Zealand. The provision of injury-related rehabilitative and disability services in the Cook Islands is shared by various Government and non-Government ministries. Without timely and appropriate needs assessment and service coordination, survivors and their families are at risk of receiving care that either delays recovery or exaggerates their disability with subsequent poorer health outcomes.

Aim and methods:

The aim of the study is to conduct a stocktake of the rehabilitative and disability services in the Cook Islands, identify major service delivery gaps based on international (New Zealand, World Health Organization) standards for minimal service delivery requirements. The student will be required to undertake a literature review of the published and grey literature regarding evidence on the effectiveness of injury-related rehabilitation and disability service provision in low- and middle-income countries, conduct a stocktake of relevant services supplemented by interviews with key informants, and undertake secondary analysis of crash injury data in the Annual Cook Islands Ministry of Health Statistical Bulletin (1990-2015).     

Skills

  • Literature reviewing
  • Interviewing 
  • Quantitative data analysis
  • Injury and disability research

Accessible transport and mobility in an Age- and Disability-friendly community

Project code:  MHS163

Department

Epidemiology and Biostatistics

Location

Auckland

Supervisor

Shanthi Ameratunga

Transport projects are often at risk of being implemented with little thought given to the needs of disabled people – in the design, and during the construction process. In early December 2016, a multi-disciplinary group of researchers at the University of Auckland working in population health, transport engineering, urban design and planning, and the social sciences, will co-host a research café to explore the ways in which the needs and aspirations of people living with disability are taken into account in the various stages of constructing the City Rail Loop (CRL). This major transport construction initiative provides a particularly timely and relevant focus for this café being hosted at the University of Auckland. The project team is led by the primary supervisor, and involves other academics from the School of Population Health, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Arts, and the National Institute of Creative Arts and Industries (NICAI).

The student engaging in this project will be an active collaborator in this novel initiative, undertaking a brief literature review pertinent to the focus of the café, interacting with relevant stakeholders (academics and transport researchers, council transport and urban planners, members of disability groups and community support agencies), assisting with the facilitation and conduct of the café, and working with the research team to identify key themes and experiences emerging from this research café to inform future policies and transport audit processes. The findings will be collated for publication, wider dissemination and advocacy in the health, disability and transport sectors.  

The key aims of the project are to present an overview of the CRL from the diverse perspectives of stakeholders participating at the research café, and develop strategies that can result in robust interactive processes that can enable accessible transport, mobility and social participation for people living with disability.

The project is open to all applicants but may particularly interest students who have lived experience of disability, and those who wish to progress to postgraduate research in this field.

Skills

  • Literature review
  • Program planning for focused research initiatives
  • Community engagement
  • Advocacy
  • Research writing
  • Working effectively in a multi-disciplinary team