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Health research

Explore health research

Find out more about people, programmes, and projects in our key research areas.

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Research projects

Some research projects from our broad range of research expertise in health at Massey.

Compassion fatigue in wildlife workers

Massey Wildbase Oiled Wildlife Response has collaborated with social work researchers at Massey to investigate compassion fatigue in wildlife carers.

Oil spill response involving wildlife attracts responders that often have deep connections to animals and the desire to alleviate their suffering. Oil spills are emergencies where wildlife responders work under intense and stressful conditions with animal mortality a reality.

A natural consequence of this is that responders could experience compassion fatigue, the erosion of compassion over time.

Bridey White from Wildbase and Polly Yeung from Massey's School of Social Work are working together to explore potential levels of compassion fatigue in wildlife carers and investigate self-care practices that can help develop resilience and lessen possible long term influences.

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Intimacy and sexuality in aged care

International research shows education can help staff in aged care facilities become more open and supportive in their attitudes and beliefs towards older people expressing their sexuality in long-term care. Lead researcher Associate Professor Mark Henrickson, and Dr Catherine Cook hope to extend their study, which demonstrated that a significant number of staff, families and residents are managing complex situations without clear processes to protect residents’ rights and safety.

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Māori at greater risk of harmful occupational exposures than non-Māori

Findings from Massey's Centre for Public Health Research show Māori are at greater risk of harmful occupational exposures, than non-Māori – despite doing the same jobs.

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The impact of ingesting multiple carbohydrates during long-distance triathlon performance

Triathletes must rely on ingesting carbohydrates while exercising to maintain the carbohydrate-energy required for intense efforts. Choosing the correct blend and form (liquid or solid) of carbohydrate for their bodies can be the difference between minutes or seconds off their times.

This study involved testing 74 male triathletes taking part in two half-ironman races in Taupo and Tauranga over the summer of 2013-14. One group of athletes took a fructose mix and the other control group a standard mix of carbohydrates.

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    Student research

    Working with an iwi provider in the health sector fuelled Dr Carole Fernandez's desire to make a positive contribution to health service delivery for Māori. Her research demonstrated the application of tikanga-based principles and values used in collaborative processes when working with Māori and whānau, and also when working at the interface with mainstream service providers.

    Carole Fernandez
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Diana Cabrera's project will use untargeted metabolomics on blood samples to study metabolic pathways of postmenopausal osteoporosis in Singaporean Chinese women and in an osteoporotic sheep model. The aim is to identify novel biomarkers that could be used as early prognostic indicators of bone loss.

    Diana Cabrera
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Dr Acushla Dee O’Carroll's 3-year PhD study centred on how social networking sites affect Māori culture. She interviewed Māori youth, conducted iwi case studies (one based in South Taranaki, the other based in London) and surveyed 139 Māori living overseas for more than 12 months. What she discovered was that Facebook and Skype are key for modern Māori to maintain and strengthen traditional relationships. She was awarded a prestigious 2013 Fulbright-Harkness New Zealand Fellowship for her outstanding record of achievement and leadership.

    Dr Acushla Dee O'Carroll
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Dr Claire Minton, a lecturer at Massey University’s School of Nursing, explored the experiences of patients, their families and healthcare professionals during the trajectory of a prolonged critical illness, for her PhD thesis. Her research provides insights into the complexity of care during prolonged critical illness, which can result in interventions, education and research targeted to improve outcomes and experiences.

    Dr Claire Minton - Lecturer, School of Nursing, Massey University
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Dr Sharon Henare is a Research Officer in the School of Health Sciences. Her current research investigates the effects of foods and food components on the function and health of the gastrointestinal tract.

    Dr Sharon Henare - Lecturer, School of Health Sciences, Massey University
    Doctor of Philosophy

    In her thesis, Dr Sue Adams, a senior lecturer in the School of Nursing, explored the experiences of rural nurses on their journey to becoming nurse practitioners. Her research identified that fragmented health service organisations, and the ongoing policy commitment to doctor-led care, limited the opportunity to improve primary health care services through using nurse practitioners to meet the health needs of rural communities.

    Dr Sue Adams - Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing, Massey University
    Doctor of Philosophy

    PhD student Katie Pedley is investigating the long-term effects of coeliac disease. Her thesis is being supervised by Professor Marlena Kruger.

    Katie Pedley
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Kyle Southward's PhD research is investigating the effects of key genes on how individuals respond to caffeine during exercise. His research aims to better understand individual responses to caffeine so that tailor-made supplementation programmes can be made for individual athletes rather than simply using generic guidelines. His PhD is supervised by Associate Professor Ajmol Ali, Dr Kay Rutherfurd-Markiwick and Dr Claire Badenhorst.

    Kyle Southward - Tutor, Massey University
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Beetroot juice contains nitrate and has the potential to improve cognition, mood and cardiovascular function. Luke Stanaway's PhD examines the effects of a single dose and prolonged intake of nitrate supplementation, of beetroot juice, on cognition, mood and cardiovascular responses in younger (18-30 years) and older adults (50-70 years). His project is supervised by Associate Professor Ajmol Ali, Associate Professor Kay Rutherfurd-Markwick and Associate Professor Rachel Page.

    Luke Stanaway
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Dr Matt Miller invented the Brake Power Meter, which automatically measures braking power and time spent braking while you ride. For his PhD, Dr Miller and his supervisor Dr Phil Fink spent more than four years researching the importance of braking on mountain bike race performance and rider fatigue.

    Matt Miller - Lecturer, School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition, Massey University
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Parkpoom Siriarchavatana's PhD research is looking for the bioactive substances from green shell mussels to prevent osteoarthritis. To achieve this, he is conducting an osteoclast culture for screening the promising chemical fraction in mussels. Later, he will evaluate his findings with animal studies. His PhD is supervised by Dr Fran Wolber.

    Parkpoom Siriarchavatana
    Doctor of Philosophy

    The focus of Saima Rizwan's research is to understand complex pathogenic mechanisms in osteoarthritis and to identify potential targets for GLM (green-lipped mussel) therapy in osteoarthritis. Her project is supervised by Dr Fran Wolber.

    Saima Rizwan
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Sherina Holland's PhD is looking at interactions between breast cancer cells and neutrophils. Specifically she hopes to determine if cross talk between the two cell types might alter neutrophil lifespan along with the phenotype of both the cancer cells and neutrophils.

    Sherina Holland
    Doctor of Philosophy

    Janice Lim's PhD project investigates the hypoglycaemic potential of several plant extracts easily accessible in New Zealand that may help in improving blood glucose homeostasis, particularly in people diagnosed with prediabetes. She also studies the underlying mechanism of action of plant extracts in improving blood glucose response. Her project is supervised by Associate Professor Rachel Page.

    Wen Xin Janice Lim
    Doctor of Philosophy

      Awards and recognition

      Associate Professor Kieran O’Donoghue was awarded a Certificate of Excellence for research by Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW). As well as receiving this Quality and Innovation Award, he shared the overall ANZASW trophy.

      Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW)
      ANZASW Quality and Innovation Awards

      The prestigious Dietitians NZ Award of Excellence has been awarded to Dr Carol Wham from Massey University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition in the category of Outstanding Achievement in Dietetics.

      Dietitians NZ
      Dietitians NZ Award of Excellence

      Professor Mark Henrickson is a staunch advocate for the rights of sexual and gender minorities. He was the first New Zealand social worker from New Zealand to deliver the prestigious Eileen Younghusband Memorial Lecture at the 2016 World Social Work Conference in Korea.

      Dr Rosie Gibson from Massey’s Sleep/Wake Research Centre has been awarded nearly one-quarter of a million dollars by the Health Research Council of New Zealand to investigate sleep and its relationship to the health and wellbeing of older New Zealanders, highlighting both the personal, sociological, and economical impact of sleep problems.

      Health Research Council of New Zealand
      Emerging Researcher First Grant for sleep research

      Dr Octavia Calder-Dawe from Massey University’s SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre, has been awarded nearly $250,000 from the Health Research Council of New Zealand to investigate what wellbeing means to New Zealand youth.

      Health Research Council of New Zealand
      HRC funding for New Zealand youth wellbeing research

      Professor Sally Casswell, Co-Director of the SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre in Auckland, has been awarded a project grant of $1,188,701 over 36 months by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. Her project is entitled Assessing and comparing national policy to reduce harmful use of alcohol.

      Health Research Council of New Zealand
      HRC funding for alcohol control research

      Professor Jeroen Douwes, Director of Wellington’s Centre for Public Health Research, has been awarded nearly $5 million by the Health Research Council of New Zealand to investigate work-related disease.

      Health Research Council of New Zealand
      HRC funding for work related disease research

      Dr Collette Bromhead was appointed chief executive of the New Zealand Organisation of Rare Diseases (NZORD). The health advocacy organisation represents the interests of New Zealanders affected by rare disorders by promoting research and partnering with clinicians to improve diagnostics, treatments and support.

      New Zealand Organisation of Rare Diseases 
      Massey lecturer appointed head of rare diseases organisation

      Associate Professor David Rowlands from the School of Sport and Exercise was honoured as the winner of the 2017 Gatorade Sport Science Institute (GSSI) - American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Sport Nutrition Award for his study entitled, Multiple-Transportable Carbohydrate Effect on Long-Distance Triathlon Performance.

      Gatorade Sport Science Institute (GSSI) - American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
      Sport Nutrition Award


        Massey University's interdisciplinary approach to research means that schools and institutes from a number of colleges contribute to health research. However the majority of health-related research is conducted by people within the College of Health.

        College of Health

        Research centres

        Massey has a number of research centres in our areas of health expertise.

          Centre for Public Health Research

          The Centre for Public Health Research covers all aspects of public health, including non-communicable diseases (respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes), occupational health, environmental health, socio-economic determinants of health, Māori health and Pacific health research.

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          Research Centre for Māori Health and Development | Te Pūmanawa Hauora

          The Research Centre for Māori Health and Development focuses on public health research from a Māori development perspective.

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          Riddet Institute

          The Riddet Institute is a premier centre for fundamental and strategic scientific research. Its area of expertise is at the intersection of food material science, novel food processing, human nutrition and gastrointestinal biology.

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          SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre

          The SHORE and Whāriki Research Centre is funded through external research grants and contracts to undertake public-good research of relevance to the health and social sectors. The centre consists of two multidisciplinary research groups working in a Treaty of Waitangi partnership model to produce excellent research with the aim of improving health and wellbeing in Aotearoa, New Zealand and globally.

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          Sleep/Wake Research Centre

          The Sleep/Wake Research Centre is New Zealand’s first laboratory dedicated to research and education in circadian physiology, sleep science, and their applications. We are motivated to find science-based solutions to the challenges created by the restricted sleep and circadian disruption that are endemic in our 24/7 society.

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