Dr Nevil Pierse, PhD Graduate.
Originally from Ireland with a background in mathematics and statistics, Nevil worked in research for four years both in New Zealand and the UK, before starting a PhD at the University of Otago's Wellington campus. "I wanted to do my PhD in order to have experience leading an in-depth project that I shaped and scoped. Public Health was a natural fit for me, as it combines interesting methodological challenges with outcomes that can make a real difference to people's lives."
Nevil's PhD looked at the statistics challenges of Placebo effect in unblinded randomised trials. After completing his PhD he began work in the Wellington department with He Kainga Oranga/The Housing and Health Research programme. Nevil has subsequently worked on projects with housing quality, heating, insulation, injury prevention and a host of smaller projects.
"Public Health is at its best when we work with communities to place their knowledge in an evidenced based context. Often our community partners know what they need to improve health and wellbeing but struggle to make the case. Research methods and data can help generalise and translate these ideas for everyone."
Currently Nevil leads the Housing First programme on homelessness – a NZ$2.5 million partnership between University of Otago, the University of Waikato and The Peoples Project in Hamilton – that looks at the long-term effects of a new model to meet the needs of rough sleepers. The programme is aided by the excellent data available through Statistics New Zealand's Integrated Data Infrastructure, allowing a view of the entire life course of the population and most importantly highlighting the interventions that are impacting positively on people's lives.
"In the Housing First programme we can see the long term impact of housing and wrap around support for rough sleepers – these changes occur in health, education, benefits and employment."
Nevil finds great satisfaction in knowing his work makes a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable. He thoroughly enjoys working in partnership with innovative communities to improve the lives of New Zealanders and gain knowledge that can be shared worldwide.
"What we do here really matters – our work in housing has led to changes both big and small. Based on our research over 300,000 houses have been insulated by EECA. We are leading the health sector towards improving housing quality in the homes of children hospitalised for housing related disease. We are helping to shape new thinking around homelessness."