Māori, Pacific heart health targeted by new Centre of Research Excellence

The $40.5 million Centre of Research Excellence for heart health equity aims to close a seven-year gap in life expectancy for Māori and Pacific people versus the rest of the population.

Professor Julian Paton, co-director of Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand

The Centre is funded for an initial eight years – the largest tranche of money ever allocated to heart research in New Zealand. It will be hosted by the University of Auckland, the Government announced on Friday as part of its funding of Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) to 2028.

Healthy Hearts for Aotearoa New Zealand will bring together researchers, healthcare practitioners and community groups, under the leadership of co-directors Professor Julian Paton and Dr Anna Rolleston (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Pukenga) of the Department of Physiology in the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

“This is a game changer for health and for health research in Aotearoa,” said Dr Rolleston. “Guided by our Māori and Pacific leadership committees, we will work together with community partners to pioneer a new way of working in research and in health.’’

The centre will assemble infrastructure to discover, develop and inform new early diagnostics, treatments and strategies to improve equity.

Cardiovascular disease remains the leading cause of death and disability in Aotearoa.  

Dr Anna Rolleston (Ngāti Ranginui, Ngai Te Rangi, Ngāti Pukenga)

“With cardiovascular disease our number one health problem, this award is huge news for Aotearoa,” said Professor Paton. “This investment will address the unacceptable disparities in heart disease across the nation, something which should have happened many years ago.”

Cardiovascular disease and co-morbidities not only occur at greater rates for Māori and Pacific people but earlier, causing an undue burden on whānau/aiga, communities, and the health system. Cardiovascular disease has continued to be the single biggest contributor to the difference in life expectancy between Māori and Pacific and other New Zealanders.

Key facts on heart disease:
• About one in 20 people are living with heart disease in New Zealand
• Every 90 minutes, a New Zealander dies from heart disease
• A quarter of people presenting to hospital with an event are under 55
• Heart disease is the greatest killer of women in Aotearoa
• Heart disease kills 3000 women in New Zealand every year
• Heart failure hospitalisation is 4.5 times higher for Māori vs non-Māori women

The Centre will be hosted by the University of Auckland in partnership with: University of Otago, University of Canterbury, Auckland University of Technology, University of Waikato, and Massey University along with DHBs and other community partners around the country.

Media enquiries

Paul Panckhurst
: 022 032 8475
Email:   paul.panckhurst@auckland.ac.nz