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Christchurch longitudinal study wins prestigious award

Tuesday 17 December 2019 9:44am

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Dr Geri McLeod of the Christchurch Health and Development Study accepts the New Zealand Medical Association’s Robinson Award from New Zealand Medical Journal editor-in-chief Professor Frank Frizelle.

A group of Christchurch researchers has won a prestigious New Zealand Medical Journal award for their study identifying the childhood factors most likely to predict obesity later in life.

The award was presented by New Zealand Medical Journal editor-in-chief, Professor Frank Frizelle, who is also a Christchurch-based researcher.

The University of Otago’s Christchurch Health and Development Study (CHDS) has been following the lives of more than 1000 Cantabrians since their birth in the late 1970s. This world-class longitudinal study is an invaluable resource for understanding how childhood situations, particularly adversity, affects people’s later lives.

The CHDS published an article in the New Zealand Medical Journal last year called Childhood predictors of adult adiposity. The publication showed at ages 30 and 35, approximately one-third of CHDS cohort members were overweight and one-fifth were obese. The factors most likely to predict which children would be overweight or obese adults were: male gender; being born into a single parent family; having parents with a larger body size; higher early infant growth; limited or no breastfeeding; lower levels of cognitive ability; and exposure to severe sexual abuse. The study identified high early infant growth and limited or no breastfeeding as factors that could be impacted through public health promotion.

"However we accept it with some sadness as our colleague David is no longer with us but I know he would be proud of what we have achieved as a team and that we are raising awareness of such an important health issue."

The publication won the group the New Zealand Medical Association’s Robinson Award. This is given annually for excellence in medical writing and a clinically relevant manuscript published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. The award is given at the discretion of the New Zealand Medical Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Professor Frank Frizelle.

Professor Frizelle says the study represented leading research on a topical issue.

“This manuscript highlights a growing issue not just for New Zealand but countries worldwide and is already having an impact on morbidity and long-term conditions such as diabetes.”

One of the authors of the publication was the late Professor David Fergusson, who led the CHDS for more than 30 years. His long-time colleague, and now director of the research group Professor Joe Boden, says the team was "delighted to win this award".

“However we accept it with some sadness as our colleague David is no longer with us but I know he would be proud of what we have achieved as a team and that we are raising awareness of such an important health issue. We are also grateful to Frank, the NZMJ, NZMA and MAS for making this award possible,” Professor Boden said.

The winner of last year’s Robinson Award was also from the University of Otago, Christchurch. Professor Doug Sellman and his National Addiction Centre colleagues were awarded the honour for their article titled Psychosocial enhancement of the Green Prescription for obesity recovery: a randomised controlled trial.