The Great NZ Science Project begins!

By Siouxsie Wiles 11/11/2012 5

Today sees the launch of the ‘Great NZ Science Project’, a TV and web campaign that is part of the NZ government’s new $60 million National Science Challenges initiative announced earlier this year.

Says Minister for Science & Innovation Steven Joyce:

“We are keen for the public and the science community to tell us what they think are New Zealand’s most important science challenges are over the next 5-10 years, so we can focus our investment on solving these challenges for the benefit of New Zealand”

The website features 8 potential challenges ranging from protecting our diversity to our changing climate. Each challenge has a short webisode of a scientist and child talking about science.

Being a microbiologist, I am particularly interested in the ‘fighting disease‘ challenge (see my conflict of interest statement below!). This challenge highlights the importance of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia. What many kiwi’s don’t realise though is our appalling rates of infectious diseases, which are bucking international trends and going up instead of down.

A recent study of hospital admissions over the last twenty years, carried out by Michael Baker and colleagues and published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, showed that while admissions caused by non-communicable diseases have increased by 7%, those due to infectious diseases have gone up by a staggering 50% [1]! We also have 4 times higher rates of Chlamydia infection then the UK and Australia, a bacterium which causes infertility. Infectious diseases physician Steve Ritchie was on Radio NZ National’s weekly science show Our Changing World recently where he talks about our appalling rates of infection with Staphylococcus aureus. You can hear Steve’s interview here. I’ve blogged about this ‘superbug’ before.

Anyway, that’s enough ranting from me. Go check out the website and make sure you make your have your say!

1. Baker MG, Telfar Barnard L, Kvalsvig A, Verrall A, Zhang J, Keall M, Wilson N, Wall T, Howden-Chapman P (2012). Increasing incidence of serious infectious diseases and inequalities in New Zealand: a national epidemiological study. The Lancet 379(9821): 1112-1119. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(11)61780-7

Conflict of interest statement:
I am one of the 8 scientists featured on the website and do research into infectious diseases.

5 Responses to “The Great NZ Science Project begins!”

  • Merits of this study includes the high population sample size and the filters used. It does not paint a pretty picture for healthy standards particularly bearing in mind that Kiwis are health conscious and this study outlines a possible surveillance system. Surveillance alone will not tackle the issue at hand and with more microbial diseases being antibiotic resistant, large immunisation drives conducted by public health officials at all levels and with the further issue of the growing ethnic divide i can only hope that research and personalised medicine breakthroughs could help mitigate this looming crisis

    • Hi Livo

      Thanks for commenting. In all honesty, I think a lot of our problems would be better resolved by addressing the growing divide between rich and poor and dealing with our incredibly unhealthy housing stock!

  • Damn, I see one “Kevin Owen” is peddling bullshit in the comments section of “Fighting Disease”. Apparently we should be giving everyone placebos and converting to Scientology. Unfortunately, I think the “Submit” button is broken so I can’t even call him out on it.

    Nice to see you in the video there though :)

    • Hi Mark

      Thanks for dropping by and glad you like the video :). I did try to get discussion going in the comments section but it was too hard with the way they were approving comments. Looks like Kevin Owen has been removed though so they are doing something right :)

  • hi tere

    this has been a great science that had made me known of different creatures in nz and alsorts of other things that made me proud of who i am and who i stand for kia kite pai and kia kite ano

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