Speech to Healthier Lives National Science Challenge Webinar

Ngā mihi nui ki a koe, Koro Hata Temo for your mihi, and many thanks Professor Mann for your introduction.
Tēnā koutou e ngā mātāwaka.
Tēnā koutou e te hau kāinga Te Ātiawa, tēnā koutou .
Ko Ayesha Verrall ahau, Minita o te Karauna.
Tēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ata
Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa.
I would like to start by acknowledging the other presenters from Aotearoa New Zealand, and to extend a warm welcome to those joining from other countries.
There is a wealth of knowledge and experience represented today, and I trust everyone will take considerable value from the discussions.
Kia ora to the people I’ve worked with in the past. I want to recognise the excellent mahi you continue to deliver, and your contribution to the wider research, science and innovation system.
I want to take this opportunity to talk about the critical importance of strong linkages between research policy and practice, and Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways.
Unlocking the power of science and deploying it to improve health and wellbeing, is very important to me personally.
That’s why in my first year as a Government Minister I have championed evidence-based policy, through initiatives such as mandatory fortification of most bread-making flour with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects, and ensuring a nationally-consistent approach to the fluoridation of community drinking water to protect New Zealanders from the pain and cost of tooth decay.
I have sought to improve our use of experts and bring science into the Covid-19 response, commissioning advice from the group led by Professor Sir David Skegg to help inform government decisions as the pandemic evolves.
Pae Ora Healthy Futures Bill
We want to make this approach to science and health much more routine and systematic.
Recently we reached a significant milestone – introducing the Pae Ora Healthy Futures Bill, which will enable us to reform the health and disability system.
Through these reforms we will:
Have a public health agency with strong technical capability to address health challenges
And a ‘health in all policies’ approach, to ensure health is prioritised in everything we do – tying in with the importance we place on wellbeing
Often science tells us we should focus on prevention and early intervention.
One tool we will use to re-orientate our system and achieve that, is the development of health plans between the new national health service – Health New Zealand – and the independent Māori Health Authority.
However, as we have seen through our Covid-19 response – whether that be in the vaccine roll out, or public health interventions such as contact tracing – our impact is limited by our ability to reach communities.
We will address this through work such as promoting community mobilisation in our efforts to help New Zealanders quit smoking – and reach our Smokefree 2025 goal.
And the wider health reforms provide a new and exciting opportunity, with their focus on a locality-based approach to population health. This will see different strands of healthcare integrated, so Kiwis can easily access support and treatment tailored to their needs – regardless of where they live.
For instance, this would mean whānau bringing a new baby into the world could access support from a trusted healthcare worker, who can then bring in assistance – where needed – from a wider team of GPs, practice nurses, midwives, Well Child Tamariki Ora nurses and kaiāwhina.
They would also have links to social support from related services such as Family Start – an intensive home-visiting programme that works with vulnerable children up to age five, and their whānau. These types of models are already being tested through the StartWell prototype in South Auckland, and enhanced support pilots in Lakes, Counties Manukau and Tairawhiti DHB regions.
This type of integrated care is key to improving New Zealanders’ wellbeing, and we want to see it established around the country.
Improving use of science in the system
Improving use of science in the health system is a priority for myself and the Government, and we are addressing this through several initiatives.
That includes investing up to $385 million over four years in systems that support health data, through Hira.
Formerly known as the National Health Information Platform, Hira is key to making health care more accessible, sustainable and resilient; improving health and wellbeing outcomes; and taking steps towards resolving inequality.
It will deliver:
Data services that enable health information to be published, discovered and shared across the health and disability system in a secure way
And applications and websites which allow individuals to securely access their health information across the system – and health providers to access that information about the people they’re treating and caring for
Hira will also empower people to monitor their own health. They’ll be able to update, contribute to and correct their own health information, and authorise for it to be shared with their support network.
We need people with appropriate understanding of health, working in teams with cutting-edge data science skills – in order to be able to unlock the power of data in the health system.
Last month I announced an $8.1 million investment in ‘Te Tītoki Mataora’ the MedTech Research Translator.
This programme will translate the findings from publicly-funded research into solutions for unmet clinical needs – delivering new medical tools.
Each project will have a researcher, clinician and commercialisation expert on the team. We want to ensure Te Tītoki Mataora lives up to its name with strong Māori and Pasifika partnerships underpinning new research – focusing on co-created technologies that rebalance health inequities.
Diversity provides wider perspectives that reflect the needs of our diverse society.
Te Ara Paerangi – Future pathways
Some of you will have attended the recent launch of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways, or read the Green Paper we released.
Our research, science and innovation system has served Aotearoa New Zealand exceptionally well, and the research community’s work has provided significant environmental, economic and social benefits.
But the system has been through multiple changes over the last three decades, and it’s now time to consider how to best position it to meet the coming challenges and opportunities.
There have been a number of reviews of the system, such as last year’s Te Pae Kahurangi review into the Crown Research Institutes. These reviews identified areas where the system is not performing as well as it could be.
Our system is made up of great people, but we need to make sure they are properly supported to carry out impactful research. And we must find ways to change the often precarious nature of jobs in this sector – particularly for early career researchers. This is something I feel strongly about, having worked in health research.
The sector must also adapt, to better represent New Zealand. We know only five percent of researchers identify as Māori, 1.7 percent as Pasifika, and around a quarter of Professors and Deans are women.
I’m confident the sector will have innovative ideas on how to better attract and develop talent, widen participation, and address retention issues. We want to develop these ideas through the Future Pathways process.
We need to match the benefits from our research and science, with a modern, future-focused research system that is connected, adaptable and resilient, that embeds Te Tiriti across the design and delivery attributes of the system and supports opportunities for mātauranga Māori.
It’s important the system builds on the great work already underway to address Aotearoa New Zealand’s key challenges, such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. We will ensure we retain the best parts of the system, while enhancing the parts that could work better.
Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways is a multi-year programme focused on the future of New Zealand’s research system. It seeks to start an open and wide-ranging conversation on a range of issues facing the research system, how these issues might be addressed, and how to take advantage of emerging opportunities.
We will gather a broad base of views, drawing on the collective wisdom and experience of researchers and research users.
The release of the Green Paper is the first step in a conversation about the future of the system, and I encourage you all to go to the MBIE website for more information about how to feed your ideas into the process.
As ideas are developed and refined, there will be further opportunities over the next year for people to engage in the Future Pathways programme. It may take some years for the full re-design to be determined and implemented.
Pathways between research, policy and practice
We want to see greater benefits from the science done in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Green Paper contains ideas around better impact delivery, knowledge exchange and research impact. Two of the key questions posed are:
How do we better support knowledge exchange and impact generation?
And what should the role of research institutions be in transferring knowledge into operational environments and technologies?
I encourage you all to engage with Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways, to ensure your individual experiences and knowledge play a part in developing the future science and innovation system.
Today’s event is an excellent example of the research community coming together to share their knowledge. These are some of the unintended positive features we have seen emerge from the National Science Challenges.
Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways can ensure this work will benefit the wider system for years to come.
Mā te kimi ka kite, Mā te kite ka mōhio, Mā te mōhio ka mārama.
Seek and discover. Discover and know. Know and become enlightened.
Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katoa.

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