Theme 6:

Translation of our research and its impact on

policy and practice



This theme is focused on translating our research into effective policy interventions and educational practice, and extends to an analysis of the potential impacts of our research in these areas.


A key issue is the economic justification for a policy shift from later life interventions to early life interventions. Strategies for intervention must be defined in a population-specific manner that considers the state of nutritional/economic transition. Further, within a country a general life-course model can also be used to study population subgroups at different levels of transition, such as Māori and Pacific peoples in comparison to European groups. We have a collaborative project underway to develop a generic model for studying life-course costs.


A recent study in a Western population has shown that nutritional prudence in women of reproductive age varies with educational achievement. Our educational research investigates ways to improve nutritional knowledge relevant to reproduction. We are mindful that approaches should be targeted according to cultural values and practices, with appropriate strategies of particular relevance required for young Māori and Pacific people. Nutrition and exercise are important in considering approaches to prevention and intervention, but it is necessary to consider that programming may alter appetite regulation and other components of biology, thereby limiting the efficacy of simple programmes. Such possibilities were first suggested by our experimental work, and recent data show similar clinical observations of altered food preferences and altered exercise behaviour in those born smaller.


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Current projects


1. International Healthy Start to Life Project (IHSLP) — Phase II: Building further capacity for New Zealand translation and strengthening global collaboration


This is a population-based study that aims to provide context-relevant evidence to policy makers both in NZ and internationally, to ensure that strategies designed to improve population health recognise the importance and cost-effectiveness of investment early in life. In order to develop and effectively implement early life interventions, it is necessary to better understand both the epidemiological aspects and the economic costs associated with a poor start to life, to determine whether interventions are likely to be cost-effective. The International Healthy Start to Life Project brings together a unique group of economists and medical researchers from developed and developing countries to develop and validate an economic model of the costs across lifetimes and populations that arise from children having a less than healthy start to life. The aim of the current project is to validate an economic model originally proposed by Alderman and Behrman, with country specific data and knowledge of local population contexts, to provide robust evidence to direct appropriate country-specific policy in this area.


Susan Morton

Project leader: Dr Susan Morton (s.morton <at>

Project team: Dr Kathryn Franko


Susan can be heard talking about her research on YouTube.



2. A healthy start to life — Adolescent education for preparedness


The presentation of current basic science research to adolescents attending educational programmes run by LENScience in 2007 has shown anecdotally that 14 and 17 year olds students do not have a good understanding of the nutritional requirements for pregnancy. This observational study aims to develop a clear picture of public perceptions of the relationship between nutrition and disease risk, in order to develop and trial educational interventions to alter those perceptions and to better engage the community with current scientific understandings. In doing so, this group proposes to change health outcomes in the next generation. The project is underpinned by the concept of developmental plasticity, and links strongly with other experimental projects investigating the basic science mechanisms of this concept.


Jacquie Bay

Project leader: Jacquie Bay (j.bay <at>

Project team: Helen Mora (Teacher Fellow)



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