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Housing, habitants and their microbes: what's new, what's true and what's next? (Tuesday 11 February, 2014) to be deleted

The largest, housing related health problems, apart from injuries, concern the airway. Airway health problems are diverse and poorly understood as are their housing related ‘causes.’ New Zealand is arguably an ideal place to examine these relationships, given the high prevalence of both poor housing and respiratory problems. The He Kainga Oranga/ Housing and Health Research Group have pioneered studies in this area. Microbes of varying types are intimately associated with many of these health problems and understanding of our personal and housing microbiota, both good and bad, is on the threshold of a new molecular era. Microbes also interact with other antigens in the environment to both cause and worsen respiratory illness.

This multi-speaker symposium session will explore some of these issues and the implications for health, and healthy housing. In the first part of the day, guest speakers will highlight some of the more important ‘microbiota’ that surround us and discuss current research projects examining the impact of microbiota, both personal and housing related, on our health. Later speakers will focus on the latest intervention studies in this area, which examine ways to remove or reduce the effects of harmful microbes, and increase levels of helpful microbes both personally and in our indoor environments, both domestic and outside the home.

Topics covered

  • The surprising places allergens can be found in our indoor environments
  • Viruses and our immune systems
  • The high level of fungi in New Zealand homes
  • Bacteria and the incidence of rheumatic fever in New Zealand
  • Intervention studies

    • Can microbiota be helpful?
      • Probiotics to reduce incidence of allergy
      • The benefits of milk
      • Probiotics and reducing rheumatic fever
    • Can we improve our indoor environment and reduce microbes through simple measures?
      • Can we reduce the common cold and why should we try?
      • Ventilation in schools
      • What are some of the simplest things we could suggest people do?

Who should attend?

This course is aimed at all those with an interest in public health and the indoor environment, including policy makers, researchers and those working in government or council housing areas.
By the end of this course participants should have been updated on aspects of housing and respiratory health and current developments in housing and personal interventions that may reduce respiratory illness.

Teaching staff

Speakers for the day include:

Julian-Crane---Professor-of-Epidemiology---MedicineProfessor Julian Crane is a Director for He Kainga Oranga Housing and Health Research Programme and Wellington Asthma Research Group at Otago University. Julian’s research interests include epidemiological studies of asthma and allergic disease including an ongoing birth cohort of children followed to investigate the early life environmental factors that lead to asthma and allergic disease. Julian is also a member of the steering group for then large international study of asthma in children, The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC). He is also interested in all aspects of the domestic environment that impact on respiratory disease, including exposure to allergens and mould. Julian is an investigator on several studies of relevance to the summer school day topic, including health of occupants of mouldy environments, home interventions to reduce cold infections, probiotics in pregnancy to reduce allergy, and use of probiotics to prevent rheumatic fever.

Professor Jeroen Douwes is the Director of the Centre for Public Health Research. He is also a Principal Investigator of the recently established Infectious Disease Research Centre at Massey University. Jeroen is recognised internationally for his work on asthma and indoor and occupational health. His current research programme focuses on asthma causation, mechanisms and prevention. He is currently the principle investigator of a number of studies including the protective effects of raw milk on allergies and asthma and the protective effects of the farm environment on allergies and asthma.

michael baker photoProfessor Michael Baker is a co-director of He Kainga Oranga Housing and Health Research Programme and has worked extensively on the surveillance, investigation and control of infectious disease. His more recent work has focused on the importance of health determinants, notably housing conditions. Michael’s research interests include the health effects of household crowding, home injury, homelessness, seasonality of disease, disease surveillance systems, the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005), pandemic influenza and how it can be contained, infectious disease epidemiology, emerging infectious diseases, and enteric diseases such as campylo-bacteriosis. Michael is a member of the government’s Pandemic Influenza Technical Advisory Group (PITAG).

Associate Professor Euan Tovey is a research scientist leading a team in the Allergen Research Laboratories at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney. He has published over 120 articles in the area of asthma, allergies, viruses, house dust mites, personal exposure, allergen avoidance, fungi, hay fever and biochemical analytic methods. His current research interests include
• Allergens: measurement and identification of aeroallergens, their role in asthma and rhinitis, personal exposure to allergens, avoidance of domestic allergens, hypotheses about development of asthma in children, the role of viruses in asthma exacerbations
• Viruses: collection, quantification and mechanisms of production of exhaled aerosols of respiratory viruses by humans, their role in disease transmission

Dr Mikael Boulic is a lecturer and researcher at Massey University school of engineering and advanced technology. His research has included investigating the relationship between domestic heaters and the indoor environment for children with asthma, unflued gas heating and the environmental benefits from use of a positive pressure heat recovery ventilation system. He was recently awarded a Health Research Council of New Zealand Emerging Researcher First Grant to undertake a project to improve indoor school environments by increasing ventilation.

Dr Nick Waipara is the Principal Advisor in Biosecurity at Auckland Council, currently working on preventing Kauri dieback, and is an authority on New Zealand fungi. He has worked with members of He Kainga Oranga Housing and Health researchers on a number of housing projects including Health of Occupants of Mouldy Environments and fungal exposure risks of leaky buildings. His research interests include microbiology, mycology, ecology, plant pathology and soil science.

Caroline-Shorter---Research-FellowDr Caroline Shorter is a Research Fellow and project manager for He Kainga Oranga Housing and Health Research Programme at Otago University. Her research interests include investigating sites and exposure of occupants to fungi, viruses and house dust mite allergens in indoor built environments. Caroline is an investigator on several studies of relevance to the summer school day topic, including health of occupants of mouldy environments, exposures to remediators of leaky buildings, and home interventions to reduce cold infections.

Kristin-Wickens---Senior-Lecturer-WARG---MedicineDr Kristin Wickens is a senior research fellow at Otago University and her research expertise includes the epidemiology of asthma, eczema and other allergic disease. Kristin’s research interests have included case-control, observational and cohort studies looking at risk factors for asthma and probiotic interventions for the prevention of eczema and allergy in infants and children through to age 6 years. Krisitn’s current research area involves a randomized control trial of probiotic in pregnancy, to examine whether maternal probiotics during pregnancy can lead to the prevention of eczema and allergy in newborns and infants.

Course cost

public health summer school registernow$300 early bird, $400 after 20 December 2013.

A 50% discount is available to full-time students, those unwaged and University of Otago staff.

For further information contact:
Caroline Shorter, email: