$5.7m for research into diabetes management

  • Jonathan Coleman
  • Paul Goldsmith
Health Science and Innovation

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman and Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith today announced the recipients of more than $5.7 million of funding to improve the management of long-term health conditions.

The contestable funding was awarded to three successful projects, all relating to the prevention and management of diabetes.

“Diabetes affects around six per cent of New Zealanders and their families,” says Dr Coleman.

“The Government understands the toll the disease takes on people’s lives. The management of this long-term condition is a major health challenge for the country.”

“Through this union of science and healthcare we hope to make inroads into reducing the toll of these diseases on people’s lives and in reducing the burden socially and economically,” says Mr Goldsmith.

Successful recipients are the University of Otago (Wellington) for two projects – a study into preventing type 2 diabetes by including probiotics and prebiotics in the diet, and a digital health initiative aimed at helping people prevent and manage diabetes using online tools.

Funding is also being allocated to the National Hauora Coalition to support a targeted programme aimed at improving outcomes for Māori living with diabetes.

The research fund, announced last year, is a joint partnership initiative between the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Ministry of Health, and the Healthier Lives National Science Challenge.

The Government's ongoing commitment to health research is demonstrated in the Budget 2016 announcement of an extra $97 million over the next four years for the Health Research Council.

Further details on the research fund is available on the Health Research Council of New Zealand website www.hrc.govt.nz.


Summary of the successful projects


Preventing type 2 diabetes with probiotics and prebiotics (PDP2)

Associate Professor Jeremy Krebs

University of Otago, Wellington

$1,800,000 Duration: 36 months


A quarter of New Zealanders have pre-diabetes, which is a condition that can progress to type 2 diabetes and cause significant long-term health problems. There is now research demonstrating that the microbes in our gut affect our health in many ways, including how our bodies process foods and sugars. We can modify our gut microbes by taking probiotic supplements (which contain live bacteria that give health benefits) and prebiotics (substances from foods which support gut microbes).

This study is a blinded randomised placebo-controlled trial to see if taking a probiotic supplement with either a standard cereal or a cereal enriched with a specific prebiotic called beta glucan for six months can improve glucose and fat levels in the blood of adults with pre-diabetes. In addition, this work will evaluate the cost effectiveness of the interventions and how to translate the study findings into clinical practice.


Innovative management of diabetes with a comprehensive digital health programme

Professor Diana Sarfati

University of Otago, Wellington

$1,600,000 Duration: 36 months


Six per cent of New Zealand adults have diabetes mellitus and one in four have pre-diabetes. Rates of both are rapidly increasing, and are higher among Māori and Pacific people. We have developed an innovative digital health programme which supports prevention and self-management of pre-diabetes and diabetes. The programme is delivered via web and mobile-based platforms. It integrates with primary care providers and uses peer support, health coaches, health tracking, and tools with engaging content to drive changes in behaviour. Initial pilot results showed that more than 70 per cent of pre-diabetics had normal blood glucose levels after four months on the programme.

We propose a group of studies, including a randomised controlled trial, to assess the clinical and cost effectiveness of this intervention in reversing pre-diabetes and improving self-management of diabetes, compared with usual care. We will explicitly assess the impact among Māori and Pacific people, and focus on translating findings into clinical practice.


Mana Tū: a whānau ora approach to long-term conditions

Dr Matire Harwood

National Hauora Coalition

$2,300,000 Duration: 36 months


Diabetes is a long-term condition in which there are significant ethnic and social disparities in prevalence and outcomes. There is huge scope to reduce diabetes inequalities. The complex nature of the condition means a comprehensive and sustained approach that tackles the wider determinants for causes, management and complications is required.

We propose to test Mana Tū – a programme co-designed with whānau, clinicians, health service planners and whānau ora providers to improve the impact of clinical and lifestyle interventions for whānau living with pre-diabetes and people with poorly controlled diabetes. Mana Tū deploys skilled and supported Kaimanaaki-whānau (KMs) in practices. The KMs use a mana whānau approach and work with general practice teams while being operationally supported by a central hub. The hub will co-ordinate broader community and social service support systems for whānau and provide training, programme design, and support within a rich data environment.