HSRAANZ members receive NZ Health Research Council funding

HSRAANZ members are amongst the recipients of funding from the Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC).

As part of its annual funding round, the HRC has just awarded $55.56 million to 49 projects with the potential to vastly improve the health of New Zealanders.  This includes:

Professor Pauline Norris, University of Otago, Dunedin

Randomised controlled trial of prescription charges

Lay summary

Although prescription charges in New Zealand are low compared with many other countries, many people report that they cannot afford the medicines they need. We plan to conduct a randomised controlled trial of prescription charges to see whether removing charges would improve people’s health. We will recruit a group of people who have diabetes and/or ongoing mental health conditions requiring medication, and who live in deprived neighbourhoods. We will divide the group in half and pay prescription charges for one group for 12 months. We will then compare how many days people from each group spend in hospital to see whether free prescriptions make a difference. Additional differences in health services, quality of life, and medicines use between the groups will also be investigated.

36 months, $1,035,525

Professor Timothy Stokes, University of Otago, Dunedin

Do regional DHB groupings improve service integration and health outcomes?

Lay summary

This research aims to improve healthcare for New Zealanders through studying the four regional District Health Board (DHB) groupings which together cover all of New Zealand. The four regional DHB groupings are fundamental to delivering better integration of healthcare as they plan, fund and deliver health services in their defined geographical regions, with the aim of reducing fragmentation, duplication and service vulnerability. We do not know if these four regional DHB groupings have delivered improved health outcomes for New Zealanders and whether, if they have achieved this, what organisational features explain this success. This research will use a combination of interviews with key stakeholders and analysis of routine collected health system measures to answer these questions. It seeks to explore if regional DHB groupings can improve health outcomes and, if so, to understand what it is about the way they operate that may explain their success.

24 months, $799,562

Major research grant awarded to assess effectiveness of primary health care

A team led by Professor Jacqueline Cumming, Director of the Health Services Research Centre in Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Health has received a $4.78 million Health Research Council grant to assess the effectiveness of New Zealand’s primary health care system.

The grant, which is over five years, is for a programme of research to be led by Professor Jacqueline Cumming, Director of the Health Services Research Centre in Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Health.

The programme, Enhancing primary health care services to improve health in Aotearoa/New Zealand, will look at the current models of delivering health care via primary health care service providers such as general practices, nursing clinics and pharmacies, and how this model might be improved. A major part of the research will focus on the views of those using or needing to access care.

The programme is in collaboration with the School of Health at Victoria University of Wellington, the Health Systems Group at the University of Auckland, the Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice at the University of Otago (Wellington), Pacific Perspectives Ltd, Whakauae Research Services, Counties Manukau District Health Board and international collaborators at the Health Services Management Centre in the University of Birmingham and the Department of Health Services Research and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom.

Professor Cumming says that since 2001 New Zealand health policy has focused on improving access to and increasing the use of primary health care services, in an effort to keep people well, but also to reduce pressure on hospitals.

“The philosophy is that general practitioners, primary health care nurses, pharmacists and other local providers are best placed to treat many of the problems facing their patients, and that this early intervention will ultimately improve health outcomes and reduce health system costs overall—or at least free up funding to be used on expanding health services. However, there has been almost no research about the extent of the changes occurring, and how effective this policy shift towards primary health care has been.”


The research programme is made up of five smaller projects, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the primary health care system.

The first project will focus on tracking data on visits to primary health care providers across the country—how many patients are visiting, how many times they are visiting—and identifying the relationship between good access to primary health care and hospitalisations.

The second and third projects will look at primary health care policy and implementation at national, district and local levels, as well as the new models of care being developed around the country. It will involve interviews with leaders in District Health Boards and Primary Health

Organisations around the country, supplemented by a series of case studies about how services are delivered on the ground and what sort of barriers are preventing further improvements.

The fourth project considers how pharmacy services are developing and how they might be linked more effectively into the broader primary health care network. This extends an existing project exploring developments in community pharmacies.

The final project builds on research that is already under way focused on Pasifika experiences of the primary health care system. It will look at Māori access to and experience of the system, and how the system might integrate more effectively with social services.

The research will begin in October.

‘Improving health and wellbeing in our communities’ is an area of academic focus at Victoria University of Wellington.


For more information, contact Professor Jacqueline Cumming on 027 563 6567 or jackie.cumming@vuw.ac.nz.