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Otago’s NEXT magazine Woman of the Year

Wednesday 31 October 2018 2:33pm

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Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman was this month named NEXT magazine's 2018 Woman of the Year for her long-standing crusade for healthy, warm, dry and safe homes in New Zealand.

Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman of the Department of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, stepped into a world of unaccustomed glitz and glamour when she was judged NEXT magazine’s 2018 Woman of the Year at the Cordis Hotel in Auckland earlier this month.

“It was like a mini version of the Oscars, but it was a very nice experience,” she says. “I had to be persuaded to put my hat in the ring, because it was a completely different area from academia.”

"It is nice to get that affirmation from an area outside of academia. It makes me feel that we really are translating research into society."

NEXT named Professor Howden-Chapman, who is the co-director of He Kainga Oranga, the Housing and Health Research Programme, supreme winner of the award for her long-standing crusade for healthy, warm, dry and safe homes in New Zealand.

She says the award is a very generous recognition of the research which she and her team have been engaged in for many years.

“It is nice to get that affirmation from an area outside of academia. It makes me feel that we really are translating research into society.”

Professor Howden-Chapman believes the award will help bring the group’s research to the attention of a wider cross section of people.

“Lots of people know about the Warm Up New Zealand home insulation programme but generally with these things people don’t think about who helped bring this about. They just think, ‘oh, it’s a good idea that our homes are getting warmer and drier’. So it is not such a bad thing that people know there are people who are working hard behind the scenes to do that.”

Professor Howden-Chapman was particularly pleased that the six-page spread in the glossy magazine allowed her to share the credit with her cross-disciplinary team of researchers.

"It’s one thing to prove warm, dry homes save both lives and money – it’s another thing entirely to campaign for your research to become the new standard here, and then set your sights on the rest of the world."

“I do think the University of Otago has very much a strong team culture of people, rather than individual stars, so I think it is rather nice that our team got profiled too.”

Professor Howden-Chapman chairs the World Health Organization’s Housing and Health International Guidelines Development Group and is on the Board of Housing New Zealand, and says New Zealand could become a world leader in setting standards for healthy homes.

The editor of NEXT magazine, and one of the judges of the awards, Rachael Russell, says Professor Howden-Chapman is the very definition of an indefatigable talent.

“It’s one thing to prove warm, dry homes save both lives and money – it’s another thing entirely to campaign for your research to become the new standard here, and then set your sights on the rest of the world.”

The Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Phil Twyford, told the magazine that Professor Howden-Chapman’s ground-breaking work had made a huge impact on public policy and had directly influenced the Healthy Homes Guarantee Act, which sets warmth and ventilation standards for rental homes.

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