Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Healthy lifestyles research at the University of Otago encompasses a huge range of research fields and applications from community activities to influencing health policy.

Visit the listings of our research groups below, or check out our featured projects.
Featured research projects

Ageing Well National Science Challenge

Three senior citizens thumbnailThe Ageing Well National Science Challenge vision is to add life to years for all older New Zealanders. This will be achieved by harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life. The mission of Ageing Well is to push back disability thresholds to enable all New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the life course with particular reference to the latter years of life.



No smoking sign thumbnailASPIRE2025 is a partnership between major New Zealand research groups carrying out research to help achieve the Government's goal of a tobacco-free Aotearoa by 2025. ASPIRE2025 brings together leading tobacco-free researchers and health service groups in New Zealand and strengthens existing collaborations. ASPIRE2025 was awarded the status of a University of Otago Research Theme in November 2011.


Cancer Society Research Collaboration | Te Rōpū Rangahau ō Te Kāhui Matepukupuku

Children gathered in a huddle thumbWe aim to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in New Zealand, and to reduce cancer-related inequalities.

We work in close coordination with the Cancer Society of New Zealand to prioritise the research we conduct, disseminate our findings, and advocate for world-leading cancer prevention, care and support.

Our partners include Massey University, Michigan State University, The University of Melbourne, and Victoria University of Wellington.


Centre for Neuroendocrinology

Rainbow arcuate thumbnailThe CNE comprises ten research groups focused upon understanding how the brain controls hormone levels and how hormones control brain function.

We have three themes of research that focus upon understanding neural regulation.

Research themes:

  • Reproduction
  • Body weight and metabolism
  • Stress


Centre for Pacific Health (Va'a o Tautai)

Pacific wooden pots on blue cloth thumbThe Va'a o Tautai – Centre for Pacific Health is home to a dedicated team of Pacific and non-Pacific researchers working in areas of importance to Pacific communities in New Zealand and internationally.

Pacific health is a holistic concept that encompasses broader ideas on well-being to encompass physical, mental, and spiritual aspects. With more than 20 different cultures captured under the umbrella of 'Pacific', there are unique approaches to health that mean health care, health systems and health services can be enriched with further understanding of Pacific-specific approaches to health.


Child Health Research at Otago

Child in red shirt thumbnailChild Health Research at Otago gathers together the research expertise and activities of scientists investigating health issues primarily affecting our youngest New Zealanders.

We also partner with a wide range of stakeholders, communities, institutions, and nations beyond New Zealand to collaborate on health issues of global significance.

Explore our child health research:


Collaboration of Ageing Research Excellence (CARE)

Clocktower thumbnailCARE conducts research in gerontology—the study of ageing in all its aspects. Gerontology is becoming increasingly important in developed countries, including New Zealand, because of our ageing populations.

Our network's areas of research strength:

  • Physical health
  • Brain health
  • Social and policy development


Department of Population Health, University of Otago, Christchurch

Eye glasses on top of books thumbnailPublic Health is the study and practice of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting the health of the population through the organised efforts of society. Internationally, this is a growing and exciting field.

Front line practitioners include health promoters and educators, public health doctors, nurses, and staff working in occupational health and environmental protection. Others are involved in research, co-ordination and management of services, and the formation and evaluation of health policy.


Department of Preventive and Social Medicine

Lupin flowers thumbnailWe work to understand why some people are healthy and some are not, how to prevent illness and injury, how people's health can be improved through working with communities, how political systems and health organisations affect health, and other issues relating to the health of populations.


Department of Public Health, University of Otago, Wellington

 Wellington harbour thumbnail

The  research groups within the Department of Public Health at our   Wellington campus carry out a range of research on critical public   health issues. These include cancer and screening, healthy eating,   health services research and prioritisation, housing, sustainability and   the environment, inequalities, infectious diseases, Māori health and   tobacco.


Edgar Diabetes and Obesity Research (EDOR)

Scrabble tiles thumbnailOur mission is to make a significant contribution to reducing the global burden of diabetes and obesity through research and dissemination of knowledge.. We aim to reduce the prevalence, and to improve the management, of diabetes and obesity by finding new ways to prevent and treat these conditions.  By striving for research excellence and encouraging international collaboration we can bring the greatest benefit to New Zealanders and the wider world. We're sharing our discoveries with individuals, communities, teachers, health professionals and policymakers.


Hauora Manawa | Heart Health: The Community Heart Study

Researcher in a clinic thumbnailThis research aims to collect data on the current levels of established heart disease, levels of previously undiagnosed diabetes, cardiovascular disease and their risk factors in randomly-selected population samples from two diverse Maori communities, Ngati Kahungunu ki Wairoa in Hawkes Bay, and Mana Whenua ki Waitaha in Canterbury, as well as a non-Maori control group in Canterbury.


Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge

A person being served food outside with a marae in the background imageThe Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge is a national research collaboration dedicated to achieving healthier lives for all New Zealanders.

It undertakes collaborative research aimed at equitably improving the prevention and treatment of four major non-communicable diseases:

  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity

Our vision

He Oranga Hauora kitenga

Aotearoa hei whenua he ōrite ngā putanga hua hauora mō te tangata, kia iti iho hoki ngā pīkauranga o ngā māuiui kāore e taea te tuku ki te tangata kē.

Healthier Lives vision

New Zealand with equitable health outcomes and a substantially reduced burden of non-communicable diseases.

Many factors impact on the health of New Zealanders, including systems that affect the whole population, cultural factors that relate to particular communities, and the genetic make-up and life experiences of individuals.

Healthier Lives' research is therefore focussed within three themes:

  1. Healthy food and physical activity environments
  2. Culturally centred health interventions for Māori and Pacific peoples
  3. Precision medicine and personalised prevention


Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit (HePPRU)

Supermarket shopper thumbnailThe Health Promotion and Policy Research Unit aims to foster excellence in research in health promotion and public health policy. HePPRU works in collaboration with policy-makers and policy advocates to advance the good health of the peoples of Aotearoa/New Zealand through independent, critical and innovative research, teaching, and community service.


Injury Prevention Research Unit

Clocktower thumbnailThe Injury Prevention Research Unit (IPRU) undertakes research that contributes to reducing the incidence, severity and consequences of injury in New Zealand.


Mental Health Research at Otago

line up of people thumbMental health is a broad and complex issue facing New Zealanders – and a research strength of the University of Otago. This website brings together our investigators and teams contributing to New Zealand's research achievement in the field of mental health.

Explore our mental health research:


Pacific Health Research at Otago

Pacific floral garland thumbnailTalofa lava, kia orana, malo e lelei, fakaalofa lahi atu, bula vinaka, malo ni, halo ola keta, mauri, fakatalofa atu, and warm Pacific greetings!

We're celebrating our Pacific health research in the Division of Health Sciences.

Learn about what's going on in Pacific health research, how we can support researchers, and where to start if you're excited about research.


School of Pharmacy

Green capsules thumbnailThe School of Pharmacy has a very active research programme with disciplines ranging from science to humanities with each having a strong contextual link to health sciences.

Research areas:

  • Clinical Pharmacy: concerned with patient care and the optimisation of medicine use in order to promote health and wellness, and prevent disease.
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences: drug discovery, drug metabolism and drug action to extend the range of drugs available and to provide a scientific basis for the quality use of medicines and bioactive substances.


Sir John Walsh Research Institute for Oral Health

Jaw bone thumbnailWe advance research and increase knowledge for the improvement of oral health in New Zealand. Our research aims are to develop clinical research that translates discoveries into measurable health benefits, and to maintain fundamental research that underpins our teaching. From the molecular level through biological systems to the health of populations, our research is improving oral health in New Zealand.


Social and Behavioural Research Unit

Daffodil flower thumbnail

The Social and Behavioural Research Unit was established in 1990 with core funding from the Cancer Society of New Zealand and the support of the University of Otago. Presently it has research programmes in priority areas of tobacco control, ultraviolet radiation exposure, physical activity and nutrition, psycho-social-spiritual factors, alcohol, and Hauora Māori.

Sustainability Research at Otago

Sampling kelp thumbSustainability Research at Otago is a guide to our specialised research collaborations working towards a sustainable future.

Our multidisciplinary knowledge base and extensive networks provide a powerhouse of research expertise to find solutions to the planet's most pressing challenges.

The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals guide our research. Our expertise in applied practice focuses on delivering a better future for people and our environment.


Tū Ora – Otago Falls Network

A University of Otago Research Network

Positive approaches to falls prevention tailored to communities

Our Otago Falls Network researchers are applying positive approaches to falls prevention research, attempting to avoid deficit approaches. Hence our name, Tū Ora (Standing Well).

A strength of our network of researchers is to support research that embraces indigenous and underserved communities. We also consider falls prevention from a lifecourse approach with a focus on increasing quality of life throughout the lifespan.


Featured research projects

Pacific youth wellness

Mele Taumoepeau thumbnail

Two studies are providing invaluable insights into the health and well-being of Pacific youth in New Zealand.

Pain of ageing

David Baxter thumbnail

As part of a growing focus on how New Zealanders can age well, Professor David Baxter is investigating the impact of pain and its associated disabilities on older people's lives.

Related stories

Research guides better health

Jim Mann an colleagues thumbnail

Sugar, carbohydrate, sodium: nutrition research at Otago is influencing and informing World Health Organization guidelines.

Obesity interventions

Rachael Taylor thumbnail

Professor Rachael Taylor is modifying both the eating and activity patterns of our babies and children.

What does the public know about preventing cancer?

Rose Richards Hessell speaking thumbnail

Dr Rose Richards Hessell presents at the Otago Spotlight Series: Cancer Research symposium.

Presented video and powerpoint

Psycho-social-spiritual dimensions of care

Richard Egan thumbnail

View Associate Professor Richard Egan's work about health beyond biomedical parameters.

Presented video and powerpoint

Back to top