Public Health

Behaviour change project for lifestyle addictions

Supervisor

Simone Rodda (923 6573)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS002

The Change Strategies Project is seeking a summer student. This project examines lifestyle addictions like sugar, alcohol, gambling, caffeine and internet use and helps people to reduce their consumption.

Skills required

  • attention to detail
  • ability to conduct literature searches
  • writing for communities (i.e., simple language)
  • ability to communicate effectively with a wide range of people
  • interest in the study of addictions at a post-graduate level

Timings

10 weeks over the summer period with the exact timing to be negotiated.

Palliative Care Delivery in Residential Aged Care

Supervisor

Rosemary Frey (ext 81353)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS003

The increasingly complex needs of Residential Aged Care (RAC) residents and the fact that a large number of older people will die while in RAC (1,2) makes it essential that services have processes in place to facilitate quality end of life care. There is a recognition both nationally and internationally that these trends demand the redesign of palliative care services to better meet resident and family/whanau needs (3,4). Older adults in residential aged care facilities are at a greater risk of receiving care at the end of life that does not adequately meet their needs (5). The Health Needs Assessment for Palliative Care conducted under the auspices of the Palliative Care Council concluded that 50% of RAC residents would benefit from specialist palliative care advice and support while the other 47% could be managed by the RAC facility, given the capabilities and resources to provide a generalist level of palliative care (6).However, limited supporting data exist to guide service reconfiguration within the context of RAC (7).

The Supportive Hospice and Aged Residential Exchange (SHARE) is a new model of providing palliative care that integrates specialist palliative care and residential aged care services.The Freemasons Foundation and HRC funded evaluation of SHARE took place in 20 RAC facilities within ADHB and WDHB for a period of 12 months. The evaluation included 61 interviews with RAC nurses, health care assistants, facility managers, GP’s and hospice nurses involved in the implementation of SHARE.

This project will have immediate real world impact in terms of enabling palliative care service development to be directly informed by research evidence. This evidence comes at a critical time for palliative care development within ADHB and WDHB as the transition begins toward an integrated model of care delivery bringing together hospice services and RAC.

Aim

The summer student project will involve a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts to describe participant experiences of delivering palliative care within the RAC setting.

Ethics Status

This project involves analysis of previously collected data and does not require a separate UAHPEC approval.

Skills

The student will develop skills in qualitative analysis utilising NVIVO as well as writing skills for publication. Some background in health policy, health management and/or organisational studies would be of an advantage.

References
1.Boyd M, Broad J, Kerse N, Foster S, von Randow M, Lay-Yee R, et al. Twenty-year trends in dependency in residential aged care in Auckland, New Zealand: a descriptive study. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2011;12(7):535-40.
2.Connolly MJ, Broad JB, Boyd M, Kerse N, Gott M. Residential aged care: The de facto hospice for New Zealand's older people. Aust J Ageing. 2014;33(2):114-20.
3.Palliative Care Council of New Zealand. National health needs assessment for palliative care. Wellington: Cancer Control New Zealand; 2011.
4.Vandervoort A, Van den Block L, van der Steen JT, Volicer L, Vander Stichele R, Houttekier D, Deliens L. Nursing home residents dying with dementia in Flanders, Belgium: a nationwide post-mortem study on clinical characteristics and quality of dying. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association. 2013 Jul 1;14(7):485-492.
5.Huskamp H, Kaufmann C, Stevenson D: The intersection of long-term care and end-of-life care. Medical Care Research and Review. 2011:1077558711418518.
6.Naylor W.: National health needs assessment for palliative care. Phase 1 report, Assessment of palliative care need [electronic resource]. Wellington: Palliative Care Council of New Zealand; 2011.
7.Ministry of Health (New Zealand). Palliative Care Services Review interim report Wellington: MOH; 2016.

He Korowai Manaaki; Wrap around pregnancy care in a rural community

Supervisor

Professor Peter Stone (021 864 726)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS008

This project is based in Te Wairoa (Hawkes Bay) and has evolved from a research partnership with Iwi and a growing relationship with the local community to test an augmented model of care for pregnant women, seeking to better connect women to allied services. The project group includes colleagues in Victoria University of Wellington.

From growing relationships with both providers and the community, the augmented pathway has been underway for more than a year. A second phase of the project (larger randomised trial) is underway elsewhere in the Hawkes Bay. Together these studies will inform local and national health policy.

Outcomes to be assessed are both clinical and sociodemographic having been prospectively defined at the study onset.
This project would be very suitable for a student with local knowledge of rural communities and an enthusiasm to support work that seeks to reduce health disparities for Maori. The student will gain experience in understanding the social determinants of health as these play out in a rural setting. A knowledge of simple statistics would be an advantage.

It would be anticipated that the project would commence in early December 2019 and be completed with a report to be tabled by early March 2020.

Walking through junk food to get to school

Supervisor

Dr Victoria Egli (923 9569)
Associate Professor Melody Smith
Dr Niamh Donnellan

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS017

Background

Children in Auckland today are flooded with advertising for unhealthy food and drink. Research suggests children living in highly deprived neighbourhoods are exposed to more unhealthy advertising than their peers; but how much advertising are they exposed to on their way to and from school every day?

Aim

To quantify the junk food advertising children are exposed to on their routes to and from school.

Methods

Using Google Street View, outdoor food and beverage advertising will be captured and analysed using existing protocols. This study will use existing route to school data from students attending three Auckland schools (one high, one medium and one low decile school) to quantify and explore the advertising children are exposed to on their way to and from school.

The student will gain experience in data collection, quantitative statistical analysis and report writing, with space to explore the complex issues surrounding children's food environments.

Impact

The results of this study will contribute to much needed on-the-ground-evidence of the influence of unhealthy junk food advertising in children’s neighbourhoods. The results of this research will be distributed among kids and communities in Auckland. This project forms a solid foundation for students wishing to pursue further postgraduate research opportunities.

This study suits students with a broad interest in connections between the environment and health from a range of disciplines including Child Health, Nutrition and Dietetics, Geography, Population Health, Environmental Science and Marketing.

Pathways to antibiotic resistance for Maori in Aotearoa

Supervisor

Anneka Anderson (923 3373)
Matire Harwood

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS019

Background

Increasing rates of antibiotic resistance is a global health concern that results in significant social, economic and health costs. Although current rates of antibiotic resistance are relatively low in Aotearoa, there is concern these will follow global trends. Despite known associations with antibiotic resistance and geographic location, age, health status and antibiotic use, little research has explored antibiotic resistance by ethnicity.

Methodology

The aim of this project will be to identify known and potential causal pathways for antibiotic resistance for Maori in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The project will apply a kaupapa Maori methodology undertaking a systematic literature review and consultative hui with key health and community stakeholders.

Research impact

The findings from this study will inform a future HRC research grant application and academic publications.

Skills required

Exposure to kaupapa Maori theory through taught causes or research will be required. 

Advertising unhealthy food and drink to children online

Supervisor

Dr Victoria Egli (923 9569)
Associate Professor Melody Smith
Dr Emma Sharp

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS020

Children today are flooded with advertising for unhealthy food and drink. In this project the Summer Student will undertake a scoping review to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways children are exposed to unhealthy food and drink advertising online. The results of this review will be analysed and implications discussed using a child-rights approach, specifically the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, (1989).

The review will centre on: social media, gamification, technology in the classroom, paid promotional reviews, and product placement in online shows.

Summer students will gain experience conducting a comprehensive literature review, including database searching, analysis and report writing with space to explore the complex issues surrounding advertising to children online, the ethical implications, and potential opportunities for health promotion interventions.

The results of this research will be distributed among kids and communities in Auckland. This project forms a solid foundation for students wishing to pursue further postgraduate research opportunities.

This study suits students from a range of disciplines including Child Health, Nutrition and Dietetics, Geography, Law, Ethics, Population Health, Communications and Marketing. 

Population health studies: Intake and exit characteristics of the BHSc

Supervisor

Dr Vanessa Selak (923 6509)
Dr Simone Rodda
Associate Professor Bridget Kool

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS035

Population health is a relatively new subject area in the undergraduate tertiary environment in New Zealand. Over recent years there has been an exponential growth in both the number of programmes offered and the number of students graduating as experts in population health. Despite this rapid growth we know very little about the characteristics of the workforce both in terms of who is admitted into undergraduate programs as well as successful graduates.

In this project, we will conduct a secondary analysis of data collected as part of the University’s Health Careers Pathway project (HCPP). The aim of this study is to explore trends in student admissions and pathways into and out of the Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) programme.

The successful candidate will undertake two activities. First a rapid review of the literature on population health studies. Second, analysis of the HCPP entry and exit survey data completed by all University of Auckland BHSc students and preparation of findings for publication.

Survey data have been collected and are available for analysis and the project has already received ethical approval. The successful student will work as part of a team undertaking analysis on the same dataset and have access to statistical advice across the duration of the project.

Skills required

  • Ability to undertake a literature review
  • Knowledge of quantitative data management for large datasets 
  • Ability to carry out agreed data analytic techniques
  • Oral and written presentation skills

The experience of harassment and its impact on quality of life: Medical students in early clinical training

Supervisor

Assoc Prof Marcus Henning (923 7392)
Assoc Prof Craig Webster
Dr Yan Chen
Dr Fiona Moir

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS037

There is a burgeoning interest in the impact of harassment on medical students particularly early in their clinical training. The literature pertaining to the wellbeing experiences of medical students is well documented both in Australasia and further abroad. There is little known about the causes, types and implications of harassment within medical education in New Zealand.

In this research project, we aim to work with NZMSA (New Zealand Medical Students’ Association) delegates to collect quantitative survey data pertaining to University of Auckland medical students’ experiences of harassment in the workplace and their self-report measures of quality of life with social support as a potential moderator. The key measures include an adapted version of the Generalized Workplace Harassment Questionnaire, a Social Support Scale, and the New Zealand version of the World Health Organisation Quality of Life Questionnaire. This project would suit a student from the medical or health science disciplines.

Skills learnt:

  • Literature review and critical appraisal
  • Data collection including working with NZMSA delegates
  • Statistical analysis
  • Oral presentation skills
  • Preparation of a report/publication – medical writing.

Please contact Assoc Prof Marcus Henning after 8 July.

Body recovery times of drowning victims at New Zealand beaches; a ten-year retrospective analysis

Supervisor

Jonathon Webber (021 555 382)
Dr Kevin Moran

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS039

Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury and preventable death in New Zealand. Beaches are the second most common environment for fatal drowning incidents after offshore locations.

While lifeguards, police and other rescue agencies are often involved in searches for persons lost at sea, little is known about the time it takes for a body to resurface after a beach drowning.

For friends, family and whanau, as well as search and rescue personnel, the uncertainty of not knowing when a person will be found can add to the stress of what is already a traumatic situation.

This project is a retrospective case series study design, using standard research methodology and analysis to investigate drowning incidents at New Zealand beaches over a 10-year period as recorded in DrownBase, and the National Coronial Information System (NCIS).

Skills taught

  • Enhanced understanding of the research process via accessing a national database to source raw data
  • data entry
  • handling sensitive information and maintaining patient confidentiality
  • the police and coronial sudden death investigation process
  • statistical analysis

Please note, this summer research scholarship requires the student to undertake the project in Wellington where the Water Safety New Zealand office is located. Students who are qualified surf or pool lifeguards are encouraged to apply; this qualification is not a prerequisite, however. Applications are also invited from those with an interest in drowning, injury prevention or epidemiology.

12-month prevalence and incidence of dementia and associated risk factors for older people in residential aged care services in New Zealand

Supervisor

Gary Cheung (021 332 823)
Sarah Cullum
Adrian Martinez Ruiz

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS044

There are approximately 70,000 people living with dementia in New Zealand (NZ) and this number is expected to rise. The literature on dementia in residential aged care (RAC) services in NZ is limited and the clinical and sociodemographic characteristics of people with dementia living in RAC in NZ are largely unknown. Delaying entry to RAC may hold multiple benefits including higher quality of life in older people living in the community and economic savings. Another important issue that has been raised in the past decade is the increasing number of people living with dementia from minority ethnic groups (MEGs), and the availability of culturally appropriate services. Since NZ is a multicultural country, it is important to explore the prevalence of dementia in MEGs as well as the social and clinical determinants that allow (or prevent) access to health services (including RAC services) in NZ.

In this study, we will use the NZ interRAI assessment to describe the 12-month prevalence and incidence of dementia (in total and by ethnic group). We will also explore the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics associated with people diagnosed with dementia in RAC services in NZ.

Tasks

  • Literature review
  • Dataset development
  • Data analysis
  • Report writing

Do we have research wastage in New Zealand?

Supervisor

Dr Vanessa Jordan (923 9490)
Marian Showell
Prof Cindy Farquhar

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS047

Aim

To determine the length of time to publication for publicly funded clinical trials in New Zealand.

Method

You will be investigating the projects and programs funded by the Health Research Council (HRC) from 2006-2013. You will collate a list of all funded projects and collect demographic details as to the nature of the work included, proposed timelines, subject area, and level of funding received. In order to determine if projects have disseminated their research findings you will:

  • Use final reports supplied to the HRC to determine if dissemination has occurred or is planned.
  • Undertake a search of the literature databases using investigators names and subject area to find trial registrations (searching WHO ICTRP Clinical trials.gov), conference publications and journal articles (Medline, Embase and google scholar).
  • Undertake a survey to request information from investigators as to how the work has been disseminated and if not reasons for this.

The overall goal of this project will be to publish and you will be an author on this publication if you wish to stay involved with the project post the studentship and be involved in the write up.

Regional and seasonal variations of diverticular disease hospitalizations in New Zealand

Supervisor

Zhenqiang Wu (021 153 1391)
Joanna Broad

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS050

Diverticular disease is a common long-term gastrointestinal condition with significant impacts on morbidity, healthcare expenditure and quality of life. It has been linked with 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels, geographic and seasonal variation. The proposed study will describe the regional and seasonal patterns of incident diverticular disease in New Zealand by using nationwide diverticular disease hospitalization records from 1999 to 2016. The data were extracted from national health databases and ethics approval obtained.

In this project, the Summer Student will undertake a brief literature review, do some trend analyses (e.g. ARIMA), and prepare a report/publication working alongside other diverticular disease researchers. The output of this study will be a peer-reviewed publication and you will be an author.


Skills:

  • Literature review
  • Statistical analysis
  • Report/publication writing

Healthy communities for healthy kids – understanding children’s perspectives and needs

Supervisor

Associate Professor Melody Smith (923 7388)
Dr Victoria Egli

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS052

Neighbourhood environments play an important role in child health and wellbeing. Understanding children’s perspectives about their neighbourhoods and needs for promoting their wellbeing is an integral component of a child-friendly city. The Healthy Puketapapa Action Plan takes a comprehensive and community-centred approach to understanding community needs and priorities for promoting wellbeing, including consultation with children.

Numerous opportunities exist for novel and real-world student projects to understand links between neighbourhood environments and child health and wellbeing. Potential topics identified by the community and research team are below. Topic choice will be at the discretion of the student and supervision team.

Aims

  • Measuring the marketing environment around Puketapapa schools
  • Improving outdoor spaces for intergenerational use
  • Access to wai in the community
  • Understanding how the Healthy Puketapapa Action Plan fits with the NZ Child Youth Wellbeing Strategy

Skills learned through the project will include:

  • Literature searches
  • Academic writing
  • Community audits
  • Mixed methods research skills and data analysis
  • Preparing a manuscript for publication
  • Novel research dissemination techniques (e.g., creating infographics)

Do Maori and Pacific families living with dementia have increased economic burden compared to Pakeha families?

Supervisor

Sarah Cullum (027 410 0603)
Gary Cheung
Adrian Martinez Ruiz

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS053

In New Zealand there are estimated to be currently over 60,000 people living with dementia and this number is projected to reach 170,000 by 2050. The increase will be largely due to the rapid increase in Maori, Pacific and Asian over 65 populations. There is now widespread recognition that the cost of dementia care falls mostly on family carers who are often unpaid and unsupported, and have levels of psychological distress. In NZ this is particularly true for Maori and Pacific families where the majority of dementia care needs are met by the family which could result in financial hardship.

The aim of this research project is to collect and examine both research and CMDHB data to assess the social and health care costs of dementia care for people living with dementia, the research question being is there inequity in allocation of resources to Maori and Pacific families living with dementia?

We are working closely with international experts Adelina Comas-Herrera and Martin Knapp (London School of Economics) who lead the MODEM and STRiDE studies. Their methods will help us to estimate the resources required to meet the needs of NZ families living with dementia and address possible inequities.

The impact of medical school experiences on an interest in a GP career

Supervisor

Antonia Verstappen (ext 82771)
Prof Phillippa Poole
Assoc Prof Craig Webster

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS062

The shortage of General Practitioners in New Zealand is well-documented, and has been the topic of much recent national debate. However, we have little knowledge about what factors might influence or predict an interest in a General Practice career. This project will involve undertaking a systematic review of the literature on the effect of medical school experiences on a medical graduates likelihood of choosing a GP career, and use an existing large database of 13 years of survey data on student background and career intentions to examine if there is a relationship between the experiences students have at medical school and their interest in a GP career post-graduation.

Aims

  • Systematically review NZ and overseas literature
  • Use an existing database to identify medical school experiences that might influence students interest in a career in General Practice post-graduation
  • Link existing large datasets

Skills learnt

  • Systematic literature review and critical appraisal
  • Statistical analysis
  • Use of large datasets
  • Oral and written presentation skills

What is known about palliative and end of life care in New Zealand? A review of evidence from the Te Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group

Supervisor

Dr Jackie Robinson
Professor Merryn Gott

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS066

The Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) is in transition as they work towards an integrated model of palliative care. Using research evidence relevant to the New Zealand context is essential to achieving a model of care which will meet the diverse needs of the ADHB population. The Te Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group based in the School of Nursing has an extensive program of research which ADHB are keen to draw upon to inform their strategic direction for palliative care services.

This project will use evidence from the Te Arai Palliative and End of Life Care Research Group’s program of work to provide recommendations to support the development of an ADHB integrated model of palliative care.

The student will work alongside and publish with international researchers and clinical leaders of the highly regarded Te Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group. They will have the opportunity to meet with ADHB senior leaders supporting palliative care service development. The student will develop skills in critical reviewing, information synthesis, and presentation of information for policy makers and service providers. There is scope for the use of creative dissemination methods, e.g. film and animation. 

Pacific youth views on pharmacy in NZ as a study and career pathway

Supervisor

Trudi Aspden (ext 83893)
Sonia Fonua

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS079

Despite great efforts from various stakeholders universities struggle to attract Pacific students to enrol into BPharm programmes. The recently formed Pacific Pharmacists’ Association (PPA) has a plan that includes promoting pharmacy as a career amongst Pacific communities. This research project is a collaboration between the Auckland School of Pharmacy and the Pacific Pharmacists’ Association. It seeks to understand some of the reasons for low Pacific BPharm enrolments and elicit ideas for how to increase enrolments from a sample of Pacific young people aged 13 to 15 years old.

The student researcher in this project will gain experience with survey administration and basic quantitative analysis, interviewing and thematic data analysis and describing their findings succinctly in an academic report.

Please note that the student stipend for this project is being provided by the NZ Pharmacy Education and Research Foundation (NZPERF) therefore only current part II and III BPharm students are eligible to apply.

The impact of Pacific music on adults with dementia

Supervisor

Dr Fuafiva Fa'alau (ext 82186)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS085

Pacific peoples make up 7% of the NZ population. Those that immigrated to NZ between the 1960s and 1980s are now elderly and at risk of developing dementia. Pacific families are more likely to choose to care for their own elderlies at home. There is very little research evidence about dementia in NZ Pacific communities, but local memory service data suggest that Pacific people are presenting with dementia and with more severe cognitive symptoms.
The aims of this project are to investigate the impact of music and arts as therapies for family members with dementia. This will be achieved by a review of the literature and an online survey questions through Facebook networks.

Student preference

The student will need to have quantitative and qualitative data analysis skills.

Skills that will be taught to the student

  • Developing a research proposal
  • Literature searching and review
  • Developing an online questionnaire
  • Analyzing data and report writing
  • Developing a peer-reviewed article for publication (student-led if desired)

Key skills required

  • an interest in Pacific health and mental health 

A data analysis of dementia for Pacific people at the South Seas Healthcare Medical Clinic

Supervisor

Dr Fuafiva Fa'alau (ext 82186)
Dr Maryann Heather

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS086

Aim

The aim of this project is to access a clinical audit for data sets for dementia for Pacific people at South Seas Healthcare Medical Clinic.

Objectives

  • To identify patterns and methods of diagnosis for dementia
  • To identify which gender group, age group and ethnic group has the highest rates for dementia
  • To discuss any existing health strategies and programmes specifically designed to cater for the needs of gout for Pacific people

Student preference

The student will need to have quantitative data analysis skills.

Skills that will be taught to the student

  • Developing a research proposal
  • Searching data bases and research articles
  • Analyzing data sets
  • Report writing

Understanding children's active travel to school- from parental perceptions to infrastructure interventions

Supervisor

Dr Niamh Donnellan (021 0855 2117)
Associate Professor Melody Smith

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS088

Walking and cycling (active transport) to school is associated with better child health. Improving the built environment to encourage active transport to school is increasingly recommended. However, it’s necessary to also understand both children and parent’s perspectives on what features of the built environment encourage or hinder active transport behaviours to school. Two stages of a new shared path intervention next to four schools, has been completed in Whangarei by Whangarei District Council and New Zealand Transport Agency. A mixed method approach was completed, including surveys pre and post intervention, focus groups with children and interviews with parents.

A number of opportunities exist to evaluate and contribute to greater understanding of the challenges related to active transport to school. Potential topics related to the project will be at the discretion of the student and supervision team and might include

  • Comparing parent’s perspectives on children’s active transport behaviours now and when they were young
  • Assessing the evidence base for active transport to school infrastructure interventions in New Zealand (literature review)

Skills learned through the project will include

  • Literature searches
  • Academic writing
  • Mixed methods research skills and data analysis
  • Preparing a manuscript for publication
  • Novel research dissemination techniques (e.g., creating infographics)

Towards developing medico-socio-scientific issues-based curricula

Supervisor

Dr Jacquie Bay (021 036 4365)
Suzanne Trask

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS099

Socio-scientific issues (SSIs) are complex social issues for which different groups of people might hold differing views, values or beliefs and which have both scientific and social implications. The exploration of SSIs offers considerable scope for senior secondary students to undertake guided inquiries and to develop capabilities such as research and critical literacy skills. Curricula embedded in health or medical contexts have been shown to engage school students and can be used as a vehicle to support the development of health awareness and health-promoting behaviour change. This underscores the importance of multi-sectoral health-education partnerships.

Aim

The goals of this summer scholarship are to explore and extend established LENScience connections between Liggins research within medical or health-related contexts and socio-scientific issues curricula. This is with a view to informing research questions for a TLRI (Teaching and Learning Research Initiative) proposal.

Two summer scholars will be able to work together on tasks which will be varied and will include:

Summer scholar one

  • conduct a wide-ranging survey of NZ science teacher blog sites and social media discussions to identify where Liggins research might connect and contribute
  • survey SSI-related resources on online education resource curation sites

Summer scholar two

  • survey Liggins research programmes with a view to furthering LENScience connections specific to SSI contexts
  • conduct a literature review of socio-scientific issue-based curriculum work in NZ and internationally

There is potential for co-authorship of a review paper on status of SSI curriculum development and delivery in NZ. Should an application for a 2-year TLRI research project be successful there may be opportunity to participate on a longer-term basis as a Research Assistant.

Monitoring the exposure to children to unhealthy food promotion on selected advertising mediums

Supervisor

Dr Sally Mackay (021 0242 6760)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS101

Food and beverage marketing is an important factor influencing children's food purchases, preferences and consumption. The University of Auckland conducted a number of studies during 2014-2016 to monitor the exposure to children to unhealthy food promotions. Since then, a new Children and Young People’s Advertising Code has been introduced. Selected studies will be repeated to monitor the impact and compliance of the new Code on advertising to children.

The platforms to be monitored can include company websites and Facebook pages of popular food and beverage brands, magazines popular with young people, sponsorship of children’s sport clubs and outdoor advertising particularly around public transport.

The studies will involve

  • Identifying advertisements and marketing techniques for food and beverages on the platform.
  • Classifying advertisements as healthy/unhealthy
  • Analysing the level of food and unhealthy advertising and marketing techniques used
  • Comparing the level of advertising in 2019/2020 with the previous studies

Skills

  • data collection
  • quantitative analysis
  • classification of foods and beverages by healthiness 
  • data interpretation and presentation 

Accessing Eye Care in New Zealand

Supervisor

Joanna Black (923 2405)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS105

Vision impairment is becoming increasingly prevalent worldwide, most often caused by ocular pathology or uncorrected refractive error. Many causes of vision impairment are preventable and having timely and local access to eye care is fundamental in reducing the degree of vision loss. This project will involve mapping eye care access pathways in different regions of New Zealand; and across DHB’s. The aim of the project will be to identify barriers to accessing eye care through input from practitioners involved in different aspects of eye care including optometry, ophthalmic dispensing, orthoptics, ophthalmology, community organisations and visual rehabilitation services.

This project will involve collating data from different sources and mapping access pathways to identify barriers that may be influencing how New Zealanders currently receive eye care.  

Analysis of entry and exit factors influencing optometry student career choice

Supervisor

Dr Andrew Collins (923 6484)
Antonia Verstappen

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS108

Each year since 2006, the University of Auckland Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences Health Careers Pathway Project (formerly Tracking Project) has collected demographic and career intention data from health professional students (medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and latterly optometry) at entry and exit from their programmes. Optometry students have been surveyed on entry for seven years with exit data now available for three cohorts. This study will be the first comprehensive analysis of optometry student entry and exit data with the aim of gaining a better understanding of the admissions profile of the programme, how this may affect career choice, and potentially inform future workforce planning as the scope of optometry career choices increases.

In particular, this study aims to

  1. Describe patterns in the key factors influencing optometry student career choices including region of origin and initial practice
  2. Document changes in students’ influencing factors over time
  3. Explore the relationship between key influencing factors at entry and exit

This project has ethics approval.

Skills learnt

  • literature review
  • use of large datasets
  • statistical analysis
  • written presentation skills

Quality of life of Pasifika People living with disabilities: A pilot study

Supervisor

Dr Ravi Reddy (021 0266 3424)
Assoc Prof Vili Nosa
Assoc Prof David Welch

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS109

Quality of life (QOL) is a broad multidimensional concept that usually includes subjective evaluations of both positive and negative aspects of life. Health-related quality of life (HRQOL) measures have become an important component of public health surveillance and are generally considered valid indicators of unmet needs and intervention outcomes.

This project will serve as a pilot study investigating the quality of life of Pasifika people living with disabilities in our communities. We aim to test research protocols, data collection instrument (CDC HRQOL–14 "Healthy Days Measure" and recruitment strategies.

Skills learnt

  • Questionnaire survey
  • Data entry
  • Preliminary data analyses
  • Report writing

Te whakahaumaru taiao: an environmental scan of policies relating to discrimination, bullying and harassment in medicine for Maori

Supervisor

Donna Cormack (021 844 620)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS110

This summer studentship is part of a larger Kaupapa Maori project, Te Whakahaumaru Taiao: safe environments for Maori medical practitioners, that aims to assess the experiences of discrimination, bullying and harassment among Maori medical students and doctors, and impacts on health and wellbeing and on career experiences and decisions.

The summer project involves carrying out an environmental scan/review to identify policies and procedures that exist in relation to discrimination, harassment and bullying in the two medical schools in Aotearoa/New Zealand and in relevant professional bodies (e.g. Medical Council New Zealand) and organisations (e.g. DHBs). The student will work alongside the research team to identify and retrieve the relevant information, and to analyse the information using content analysis and critical discourse analysis methods, within a broader Kaupapa Maori and decolonial framework.

The project will give the student an opportunity to work as part of a Kaupapa Maori research team, and to develop skills in environmental scan methods and Kaupapa Maori approaches to analysis. The project would suit someone with knowledge or experience in Kaupapa Maori or Maori health.

The student will be able to work in a flexible manner, as much of the project can be carried out remotely or online.

Perception of school readiness and early educational experience: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Supervisor

Emma Marks

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS111

Growing Up in New Zealand is a longitudinal study that provides a contemporary, population-relevant picture of what it is like to be a child growing up in New Zealand in the 21st century. Participants (n=6853) were recruited before birth through their pregnant mothers, with 6156 children participating in the 4 year interview.
The aim of this project is to explore mother perception of their childs school readiness at 54 months and how this is associated with their childs early educational experiences at 72 months. This will be achieved through quantitative analysis of questionnaire data collected from the children.


This project will provide an opportunity for a student interested in population health or child health to learn independent research skills, including:

  • Literature review
  • Data analysis
  • Presentation of results and communication of research findings


The project would most suit a third year student, especially someone interested in continuing with an honours project. Second year students will also be considered. Skills required are enthusiasm and initiative, an ability to communicate, and independence, combined with a genuine interest in research and a demonstrated ability to work in a team environment.

Consumer knowledge and perceptions of the health benefits and consumption of some of the food crops grown and promoted by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust

Supervisor

Karen Bishop (923 4471)
Andrea Braakhuis

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS114

Objective

To investigate consumers’ perception and knowledge of polyphenols as naturally occurring health promoting compounds in food crops promoted by the HFCRT.

Dietary behaviour/risks are the leading cause of health loss in NZ, with low fruit and vegetable intake contributing the most to health loss. There is consistent evidence from epidemiological studies supporting the association between apple consumption and the reduced risk of non-communicable disease such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and diabetes. Whanganui district, according to unadjusted statistics from the NZ survey, has poorer health statistics for non-communicable diseases when compared with the rest of the country. The HFCRT grow, distribute seed/grafts and promote the consumption of specific varieties of food crops that are assessed for health enhancing bioactives. The intention is to target the modifiable risk factor of healthy eating, and assess the impact of consumption on health, and ultimately improve the health of the community.

Skills you will develop

  • How to set up and interact with people attending a consumer forum
  • How to carry out a literature review
  • How to analyse data collected from interviews

Rangatahi Maori views on pharmacy in Aotearoa as a study and career pathway

Supervisor

Dr Trudi Aspden (ext 83893)
Jo Hikaka

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS117

Despite significant growth in recruitment rates of Maori into health sciences programmes overall, Maori recruitment into the BPharm programmes in New Zealand remains relatively low. With Maori pharmacists making up less than 2% of the professional workforce, substantial increase in these recruitment rates is essential to create a workforce reflective of the population in NZ.

Maori high school students in different regions of New Zealand will be surveyed and /or interviewed to identify their current knowledge of the role of pharmacists in healthcare delivery and aspects that appeal or detract from the profession and influences on their career choices.

The research student will gain skills in

  • literature reviewing
  • interviewing skills
  • transcription
  • thematic analysis
  • survey administration and quantitative data analysis
  • engagement with Maori rangatahi (youth)
  • academic writing

This project would suit those with

  • excellent communication skills
  • some knowledge of the pharmacist role
  • ability to undertake self-directed work

Consumption of food crops and the relationship with chronic diseases in the Whanganui District

Supervisor

Karen Bishop (923 4471)
Andrea Braakhuis

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS119

Objective

To investigate the association between the consumption of food crops grown, distributed and assessed by the Heritage Food Crops Research Trust and incidence of chronic disease in the Whanganui District.

This project is part of a larger project in which the health benefits of specific food crop consumption are assessed in vitro and in vivo. Dietary behaviour/risks are the leading cause of health loss in NZ, with low fruit and vegetable intake contributing the most to health loss. There is consistent evidence from epidemiological studies supporting the association between apple consumption and the reduced risk of non-communicable disease such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, and diabetes. Whanganui district, according to unadjusted statistics from the NZ survey, has poorer health statistics for non-communicable diseases when compared with the rest of the country. The HFCRT grow, distribute seed/grafts and promote the consumption of specific varieties of food crops that are assessed for health enhancing bioactives. The intention is to target the modifiable risk factor of healthy eating, and assess the impact of consumption on health, and ultimately improve the health of the community.

Skills you will develop

  • How to implement a questionnaire based study
  • How to carry out a literature review
  • How to analyse data collected from questionnaires

This project would suit a student with a nutrition and/or statistics background. However, this knowledge-base is not a requirement. 

Estimating breast cancer incidence in New Zealand women using differently constructed population denominators

Supervisor

Dr Jinfeng Zhao (ext 85661)
Dr Sandar Tin Tin

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS130

Accurate estimation of the disease burden is crucial for policy decision making, resource allocation and preventive strategies. This may, however, be impacted by the choice of population denominators used to calculate the incidence rates.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. In New Zealand, the incidence of breast cancer is usually estimated by using the Census or health population as a denominator. This may not be accurate as these populations are not complete particularly for marginalised groups. Moreover, breast cancer cases (numerator) may be missing for certain populations. This project aims to estimate and compare the breast cancer incidence in New Zealand women by using three different population denominators. The populations will be constructed from the 2013 Census only, from health service utilisation data only, and from multiple data sources available in Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). The analyses will be stratified by age, ethnicity, neighbourhood deprivation and DHB.

This project will suit a student who is interested in epidemiological research. The student will contribute to a literature review on this topic, assistance with the analyses and the development of a research paper.

Skills that will be developed

  • Literature review
  • Epidemiological analyses
  • Report writing and presentation
  • Preparing a manuscript for publication

Child Injury Prevention Network Mapping

Supervisor

Bridget Kool (923 3871)
Melissa Barry

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS139

Background

Prevention of unintentional child injury is an area of interest that spans multiple agencies across New Zealand’s public service and not-for-profit sector, including Ministry of Health, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), Housing New Zealand, District Health Boards (DHBs), Healthy Home Initiatives, Family Start, Plunket, St John, Fire and Emergency, landlords, runanga, iwi and other community providers. Safekids currently collaborates with a broad range of these providers to provide training and resources and support community events focused on Home Safety.

The network of unintentional child injury prevention providers is largely informal and dispersed from a geographical, organisational and sectorial basis. While many of the stakeholders are known to individuals working in the field or to groups working in a particular area of interest, there is no collective awareness of the potential weight in numbers and expertise. While forums focused on specific areas of injury continue to function (e.g. The Child Restraint Expert Group, SUDI Prevention Network), historical forums and mechanisms that brought together stakeholders from across child injury prevention to align services, share knowledge and information, build capability and encourage collaboration, have largely fallen by the wayside (e.g. Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa, Safekids’ Stakeholder Forum) or have limited activity or work programmes (e.g. Pacific Safety and Injury Prevention Network, Paediatric Society Injury Special Interest Group).

Understanding the relationships, networks and patterns of interaction between these organisations and providers will assist connectivity around the common interest of child injury prevention and identify opportunities for extending the reach of initiatives.

Aim

To identify key individuals and organisations involved in child injury prevention in Aotearoa and document the relationships that connect them as a network.

Method

Undertake an unintentional child injury network analysis:

  1. Define the focus of the network analysis in terms of the types of groups and individuals, the time period and the geographical area that will be included
  2. Determine a data set and design survey
  3. Develop a distribution list
  4. Collect data
  5. Analyse data
  6. Validate findings through qualitative interviews

Outputs

  1. Unintentional child injury social network map
  2. A report describing the methodology and outcomes of the mapping process
  3. Presentation of findings to Safekids Aotearoa
  4. Presentation of Nga Pou Tamariki Haumaru

A systematic review of the impact of Climate change and Food Security in Pacific Islands Countries and Territories

Supervisor

Associate Professor Vili Nosa (ext 86906)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS145

Aim

To examine the impact of Climate change and Food Security in Pacific Islands Countries and Territories.

Skills that will be taught to the student

  • Searching data bases and research articles
  • Analysing relevant literature
  • Report writing
  • Developing a peer reviewed article for publication

A review of Non-communicable diseases in Niue

Supervisor

Associate Professor Vili Nosa (ext 86906)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS146

Aim

The aim of this project is a review about Non-communicable diseases in Niue.

Skills that will be taught to the student

  • Searching data bases and research articles
  • Analysing relevant literature
  • Report writing
  • Developing a peer reviewed article for publication

Infant and toddler feeding policies and promotion in early childhood education centres

Supervisor

Dr Sarah Gerritsen (022 050 1700)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS152

Over 40,000 infants and toddlers (under 2 year olds) attend licensed early childhood education services, on average 20 hours a week. In the past 15 years, enrolments have increased from 10% to 17% of under 1 year olds, and from 30% to nearly 50% of 1 year olds. There is little guidance for early childhood education services regarding nutrition for this age group and the regulations are sparse. Regulation HS19 states that “Food is served at appropriate times to meet the nutritional needs of each child while they are attending. Where food is provided by the service, it is of sufficient variety, quantity, and quality to meet these needs. Where food is provided by parents, the service encourages and promotes healthy eating guidelines.” It is unclear if services are meeting the nutritional needs of infants and toddlers specifically, and what activities are undertaken by services to promote breastfeeding, appropriate formula/other milk use, introduction to solids and healthy eating behaviours. This project will develop a questionnaire for use in a future study, which could become the basis of an Honours or Masters research project if the student would like to continue in this area.

Aims

  1. conduct a literature review of international best policy and practice, including monitoring, of infant and toddler nutrition in early learning services
  2. construct a survey tool for collection of data in NZ regarding infant and toddler nutrition in early learning services

Skills to be developed during the summer

  • literature searching and review
  • academic writing for publication
  • quantitative questionnaire
  • survey design

Digital mental health tools: what do young people understand about the data we collect?

Supervisor

Sarah Hopkins (ext 82015)
Sarah Hetrick

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS153

We have developed a range of digital mental health interventions for young people and have a programme of research to investigate whether young people like them, use them, and that these interventions are effective at improving wellbeing.

To understand whether young people use them, we collect usage data from the ‘back-end’ of our digital platform. This data is collected ‘passively’ i.e. we can tell from the back-end rather than from survey responses how often young people use them. We want to know from young people whether they are comfortable with us collecting (passively) data about how often and how much they use our digital mental health intervention. We also want to hear from young people about how to best describe to them that this is what we will be doing and why.

We would like a student to collect data from young people via a survey and via interviews so that we can understand more about the views of young people with regard to the collection of usage data. This will be a significant contribution to our programme of work and international literature. We would value a student who has experience, and feels comfortable, working with young people. 

Deinstitutionalisation of Mental Hospitals in New Zealand: An Oral History Project

Supervisor

Kate Prebble (923 3413)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS164

Deinstitutionalisation of mental hospitals in the late twentieth century has had a significant impact on the way in which mental health services are provided internationally. The rapid closure of institutions and shift to community care was arguably the most significant change in mental health service delivery for over 100 years. In New Zealand, reduction of institutional beds became official government policy from 1972. This translated into policy over the next two decades through reduction in bed numbers, discharge of patients into rest homes, half-way houses and other residential settings, and the establishment of community services and acute mental health units attached to general hospitals.

Aim

The aim of this Summer Studentship is to create an annotated text of recorded memories shared within a Witness Seminar on deinstitutionalisation of mental hospitals in New Zealand, 1970 to 2000. Through a structured process of group discussion, people who were involved in implementing the deinstitutionalisation policy will be invited to share their experiences and to discuss certain events and/or phenomena.

Skills

The project would suit a student studying NZ history and/or the social history of medicine. The student will develop skills in recording oral history, historical research and preparing a document for online publication. 

Parental perceptions of child health and wellbeing in the pre-school years: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Supervisor

Susan Morton (ext 89268)
Caroline Walker

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS167

Growing Up in New Zealand is a longitudinal study that provides a contemporary, population-relevant picture of what it is like to be a child growing up in New Zealand in the 21st century. Participants (n=6853) were recruited before birth through their pregnant mothers, with 6156 children participating in the 4 year interview.
The aim of this project is to explore the association between parental perception of health and obesity with rates of childhood illnesses and obesity. This will be achieved through quantitative analysis of questionnaire and anthropometric data collected when the children were four years old.

This project will provide an opportunity for a student interested in population health or child health to learn independent research skills, including:

  • Literature review
  • Data analysis
  • Presentation of results and communication of research findings

The project would most suit a third year student, especially someone interested in continuing with an honours project. Second year students will also be considered. Skills required are enthusiasm and initiative, an ability to communicate, and independence, combined with a genuine interest in research and a demonstrated ability to work in a team environment.

Soundscape assessment

Supervisor

David Welch (923 8404)
Ravi Reddy
Kim Dirks

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS168

We have developed a short (17-item) questionnaire that assesses the soundscape: a person's perceptual experience of the sound environment. For work with the general public, an even shorter questionnaire may be useful. This work would test a short form of the soundscape questionnaire in a range of environments around Auckland City, including parks, busy streets, and places such as pedestrian malls which are dominated by the sound of other people. We will assess the extent to which the questionnaire is able to differentiate between soundscapes and compare findings to our full-scale questionnaire.

Multimorbidity in older adults

Supervisor

Ruth Teh (930 7517)
Ngaire Kerse

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS169

Multimorbidity is prevalent in older adults with an average of five conditions in those aged 80+. In a longitudinal study of advanced age (LiLACS NZ), six distinctive patterns of multimobidity were identified for both Maori and non-Maori living in New Zealand. We found patterns of multimorbidity were better predictors of hospitalization and mortality than the presence or absence of a single condition.

This summer studentship will be part of a larger research project which will examine if patterns of multimorbidity change over time and the impact on health outcomes (hospitalization, frailty status). Specifically, this summer studentship aims to determine the prevalence and incidence of chronic health conditions from two large datasets.

This project will suit someone who takes pride in his/her meticulous work and comfortable working with spreadsheet.

Skills taught

  • Literature Review
  • Data analysis
  • Report writing and preparing a paper for publication

Selenium and interacting mineral profiles in reducing prostate cancer risk in New Zealand

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)
Nicholas Demarais
Stuart Morrow

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS172

Prostate cancer is the most commonly registered male non-skin cancer in New Zealand with 3129 and 3383 cases recorded in 2013 and 2016 respectively; while being the third most common cause of cancer deaths [647 deaths in 2013]. According to the estimates from the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the age standardised global incidence rates of prostate cancer is highest in New Zealand and Australia. The excess cost of all prevalent cases of prostate cancer in New Zealand in 2010-2011 period was NZ$ 48.6M and approximate cost per individual diagnosed case was NZ$16,000. Therefore prostate cancer incidence in New Zealand carries a significant public health burden.

Meanwhile, New Zealand soils are notorious for low selenium levels, and New Zealand men both with and without prostate cancer carry lower levels of serum selenium levels compared to both African American men as well as European American men. However, there is contradictory evidence on the benefit of selenium supplementation for prostate cancer prevention. We have a cohort of men who took part in a selenium supplementation trial in New Zealand, and provided blood samples at both baseline and at six month time points towards biomarker assays. This study has already indicated that selenium supplementation benefits vary by age, BMI, dietary factors, heath status, standing levels of DNA damage and genetics. It will be a great leap if we can stratify New Zealand men to reduce their prostate cancer risk by adjusting their circulating selenium levels.

Meanwhile, it is also known that the major selenoenzyme, the glutathione peroxidase 1 to function, there should be other factors in the oxidation-reduction pathway in place. These include the Cu Zn Superoxide dismutase (SOD1) and Mn Superoxide dismutase (SOD2) and the haem containing enzyme catalase. For the selenoenzyme iodothyronine deiodinase to function, there should be accompanying support from iodine levels. Therefore, it is important to understand the levels of Cu, Zn, Mn, I and Fe alongside levels of Se to understand interactive benefits of these minerals in managing oxidation-reduction pathways. Meanwhile, evidence from animal studies indicate that supplemented Se can cause changes in other mineral levels.

The current assessment is therefore towards

  1. Understanding changes taking place in plasma levels of Se, Cu, Zn, Mn, I and Fe before and after men were supplemented with 200 micro grams of Se per day for six months.
  2. Understanding whether their naturally available levels of these minerals at baseline can be predictive of prospective cancer status.
  3. Whether the above goals have an association with genotype data (already available for these men).

The main laboratory technique used in this analysis is the Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry (ICP-MS), based at the School of Biological Sciences.
This is an opportunity to study real-life participant samples and to analyse the mineral profile outcomes with other meta-data already available for this cohort. Mass-Spectrometry based analyses are of immense value and increasingly being used in medical, nutritional and health sciences. Exposure to the laboratory techniques and data analyses skills will help you in advancing your academic career and in decision making towards your future academic goals.

The selected applicant should be someone who enjoys laboratory techniques, has attention to detail, responsible and persevering.

Please feel free to discuss further potential advantages of this opportunity with your supervisors.

Exploring medication safety and wellbeing with frail older people and their families and whanau across care settings using video reflexive ethnography

Supervisor

Aileen Collier (027 241 4390)
Deborah Balmer

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS173

Dr Collier’s program of research is aimed at improving safety and quality of palliative care. The work of the Te:Arai Palliative Care and End of Life Research Group is underpinned by a philosophy of ‘Nothing about us without us’. As part of an international collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of researchers in NZ and Scotland you will work alongside Dr Aileen Collier and Dr Deborah Balmer to learn about participatory visual methods. Specifically you will assist with: analysing a variety of qualitative data including filmed health care practices and patients’ and families’/whanau interviews. This will include helping write an academic manuscript for the study.

This project would suit a medical, nursing or pharmacy student with an interest in complexity and wellbeing theories and polypharmacy. You will also have an interest in the use of innovative visual methods. You will learn about the theory and practice of video reflexive ethnography methodology and gain skills in writing for publication. Previous students working with our group have published first authored papers in international leading journals and been successful with prestigious external postgraduate scholarship applications.

For more information about us please see: http://www.tearairesearchgroup.org.

Please get in touch with Aileen to discuss further.

Health seeking and unmet need for New Zealand children: Identifying the barriers and contributing factors

Supervisor

Fiona Langridge (021 242 4362)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS177

Growing up in New Zealand has followed approximately 7,000 children during their mothers’ late pregnancy and, so far, up to eight years of age. This longitudinal study aims to understand the needs, life trajectories, developmental experience and aspirations of our participants and their families in New Zealand today.

Unmet need and health seeking influence whether children do or do not access health care. Understanding and identifying the determinants contributing to those children experiencing barriers to care is essential in order to ensure equitable access to services.

The aim of this summer project is to explore the factors affecting health seeking and unmet need for New Zealand children within the context of the Growing Up in New Zealand study. This will be achieved through quantitative analysis of questionnaire data collected during mother’s pregnancy up to when the children were four years old.

Applications from students with an interest in Maori, Pacific and Asian themes are especially welcome.

This project will provide an opportunity for a student interested in population health or child development to learn independent research skills, including literature review, data analysis, presentation of results, and communication of research findings.

Skills required include

  • communication
  • initiative
  • independence
  • ability to work well within a team

Dietary diversity and its relationship with nutritional status among children in New Zealand: Evidence from Growing Up in New Zealand

Supervisor

Carin Napier (923 7547)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS180

Growing Up in New Zealand is a longitudinal study that provides a contemporary, population-relevant picture of what it is like to be a child growing up in New Zealand in the 21st century. Participants (n=6853) were recruited before birth through their pregnant mothers, with 6156 children participating in the 4 year interview. The 8 year data collection wave included eating patterns and food behavior as an indicator of dietary diversity.

The aim of this project is to explore the eating patterns of the children and how their dietary diversity is related to their nutritional status. This will be achieved through quantitative analysis of questionnaire data collected from the children.


This project will provide an opportunity for a student interested in population health or child health to learn independent research skills, including:

  • Literature review
  • Data analysis
  • Presentation of results and communication of research findings


The project would most suit a third year student, especially someone interested in continuing with an honours project. Second year students will also be considered. Skills required are enthusiasm and initiative, an ability to communicate, and independence, combined with a genuine interest in research and a demonstrated ability to work in a team environment.

Prospective monitoring of men to understand their current health performances compared to characteristics collected over ten years before

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS184

We are planning an extended data collection from a study that we have conducted between 2006 and 2009 with 572 New Zealand men. New Zealand being a low selenium state, the concluded study was carried out to assess relevance of selenium for optimising health in New Zealand men using a biomarker approach. With the proposed study extension, we wish to monitor the participants to understand their current health outcomes which we wish to assess in relation to their baseline data we have recorded 10-12 years before. This involves administering a questionnaire to collect their current health status. You are required to carry out subsequent statistical analysis of newly acquired data alongside available baseline data including lifestyle characteristics, serum trace element profiles and biomarkers stratified by genetics.

Your communication skills will be important in reaching the participants to get the questionnaires completed and returned to the study centre. Additionally, you should have basic statistical skills to evaluate and interpret the data. 

Metabolites and prostate cancer- a literature review

Supervisor

Nishi Karunasinghe (ext 84609)
George Guo

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS185

Although the standardized prostate cancer (PCa) incidence rates are highest in New Zealand and Australia, estimates on slow growing indolent and clinically inapparent latent PCa show that the rates are comparable between countries with western lifestyle [2]. Evidence including a systematic review and meta-analysis is available for the consequences of BMI and insulin resistance in PCa and its progression [3] which are features common with the western lifestyle. Conventional methods of assessing impacts of dietary patterns in disease aetiology have used methods such as food frequency questionnaires and diet diaries. However, with advanced mass spectrometry technology, measurement of diet-related metabolite recognition has been made possible and have been checked for the association with cancer incidence and progression. Studies have reported various dietary metabolites in association with prostate cancer, its progression and prostate cancer specific-mortality.

The current project is towards working on a literature review on the interaction of metabolic profiles, genetics and PCa. Information on metabolite intensity response with PCa as well as metabolite origins from diet should also be reviewed. The review should also include available approaches for metabolite profiling, current software used in data extraction and statistical models reported in data analysis.

You are required to assess literature based on major science databases including PubMed, Medline. You have to build up your reference library along with this literature review.

Preference will be given to someone with statistical interest and good grades in statistics. Experience in literature reviewing skills is an asset for your future academic work. Exposure to understanding data extraction and analyses methods will help you in decision making towards your future academic goals.

Please feel free to discuss further potential advantages of this opportunity with your supervisors.

Grip strength and cardiovascular disease in older adults

Supervisor

Ruth Teh (930 7517)

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS188

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality in New Zealand. Conventional risk factors for CVD are age, male gender, cigarette smoking, diabetes, hypertension, total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels. These risk factors were identified from a younger population and current CVD risk assessment is predictive of 5-year CVD risk for adults up to age 75. Clinical utility of the current CVD risk assessment for adults 75+ is remain unclear. Findings suggest adults living to advanced age (80+) have a different CVD risk factor profile. The aims of this summer studentship is to determine the prevalence and incidence of CVD in the very old and examine the association between grip strength and CVD in this age group.

This project will suit someone who are interested in cardiovascular health and takes pride in his/her meticulous work.

Skills taught

  • Literature Review
  • Data analysis
  • Report writing and preparing a paper for publication

Sugars versus sweeteners: Analysis of ingredients used to replace sugar in reformulated packaged foods

Supervisor

Leanne Young (027 341 4202)
Cliona Ni Mhurchu

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS190

Reformulation of the ingredients in packaged foods has potential to improve the nutritional quality of foods and population diets. Consuming foods low in added sugar is recommended as part of a healthy eating pattern associated with lower risk of diet-related disease. As an added ingredient, sugar has many different forms including glucose syrup, sucrose, honey, and fructose and is found naturally in some foods. Approximately one third of packaged foods in NZ contain some form of added sugar.

This project aims to investigate the effect of reformulation on the sugar and sweetener content of NZ packaged food products. The first objective is to identify and report on the number and category of food and beverage products in the Nutritrack database where added sugar content has decreased over time. Methods will involve examination of low-sugar claims on products and review of ingredient lists and Nutrition Information Panel data. The second objective is to investigate the types of ingredients used to replace added sugar in reformulated foods and beverages, especially replacement of added sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners, and the effect on overall product nutrient profile.

Research skills

  • Literature searching
  • Development of nutrition knowledge and skills in food composition and labelling
  • Data analysis and reporting

Public Health project TBA

Supervisor

TBA

Contact: Heather Seal

Discipline

Public Health

Project code: MHS191

Further details available at a later date.