Newsletter #6                                        April 2017

The ‘cost’ of sugar debate – RNZ broadcast

 A public forum held in Auckland last month on the controversial theme of the ‘cost’ of sugar attracted wide ranging interest.  Not only did this event sell out very quickly but it was also a huge hit with the audience. Discussion at the #costofsugar hashtag was trending on Twitter during the forum, reaching the number 1 spot in New Zealand. Many in the audience commented on the entertaining format for presenting the evidence from research in an accessible manner, and it was followed up by a number of media articles on the topic.
Thanks to Radio New Zealand you now have chance to listen to the debate in full.  It will be broadcast at:
  • 9.06am on Friday 14 April (Good Friday), 2017
  • RNZ National (FM 101)
  and you can also listen to the podcast in your own time at: So if you missed it or would like to re-visit it, please set aside some time to listen to expert panel members, Professors Jim Mann, Tony Blakely (Healthier Lives) and Jacqueline Rowarth (Environmental Protection Authority), skilfully chaired by renowned broadcaster Kim Hill, engage in a lively exposé of what we really know, and still don’t know, about the cost of sugar in our society.
The ‘cost’ of sugar forum was jointly sponsored by Healthier Lives and A Better Start National Science Challenges, along with the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre at Auckland City Hospital on Thursday 16 March, 2017.


The Diabesity Crisis research symposium – making a difference

The Minister for Science and Innovation, the Hon Paul Goldsmith, opened a research symposium on diabetes and obesity, held the following day on Friday 17 March, also co-hosted by Healthier Lives in partnership with A Better Start National Science Challenge and the Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research Centre. 
The Diabesity Crisis: how can we make a difference? symposium brought together national and international scientists with expertise in epidemiology, endocrinology, genetics, health inequities, nutrition, physical activity, public health, policy, and clinical medicine to summarise the current state of knowledge, research direction and priorities for action.
Speakers included scientists from each of the organising groups, three Australian researchers, and UK researcher Rachel Batterham who gave the keynote address about her research on bariatric surgery and the exciting potential for new treatments that mimic its effects.  Professor Batterham was interviewed by Kim Hill for the RNZ Saturday morning programme.  This interview, and videos of all the symposium presentations are now available.

The symposium focused on evidence for preventions and treatments that can make a real difference to people’s lives.  We will soon produce a more detailed report with recommendations and solutions to tackle the rising tide of diabetes and obesity in New Zealand. We will keep you posted.
Virtual Health Information Network – a valuable resource
 It is often claimed that New Zealand has some of the best population health data in the world – linkable through NHI numbers and to other government data through the Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI) – but we are not yet realising its full potential for health research.
The Virtual Health Information Network (VHIN) is a valuable resource that aims to redress this problem.  VHIN is a network of researchers, analysts and other professionals who use health data to generate insights that support the health and wellness of all New Zealanders.  They can provide advice and support to other researchers about using IDI data, code sharing and accessing metadata from publically accessible repositories.
To find out more about VHIN, visit their website: or email with any queries.
To access support via the VHIN closed group Facebook page, please search for ‘Virtual Health Information Network’ on Facebook and request to join the group.
Talking with stakeholders
Following last year's Kōrero Tahi where we presented early stage Healthier Lives’ research projects and highlights, we have recently embarked on a series of in-depth discussions with our major stakeholders, which will continue throughout this year and beyond. 
We aim to work closely with others working towards the same mission as us so that we can align our efforts to reduce the burden of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity, and the health inequities associated with these diseases.  To date we have been exploring policy issues, future research priorities, implementation of research findings and knowledge exchange activities.
We would welcome contact from any group working towards the same mission as Healthier Lives.  If you would like to get in touch with the Challenge, please email our Knowledge Exchange Manager, Fleur Templeton, at
You can also keep up with the latest news about Healthier Lives on our website: or by following us on Twitter @HealthierNZ.

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Healthier Lives - He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge is hosted by the University of Otago and funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The Challenge partners are AgResearch, Auckland University of Technology, ESR, Malaghan Institute, Massey University, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington, and University of Waikato.
Copyright © 2017 Healthier Lives - He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge, All rights reserved.

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