Ideas to Life: Creating new links between New Zealand and Chinese health researchers

In mid-December 2017, Professor Chris Bullen, Director of the University of Auckland’s National Institute for Health Innovation (NIHI) and NIHI biostatistician Dr Yannan Jiang visited the Chinese city of Hangzhou, near Shanghai, to take part in the University of Auckland’s Initial ‘Ideas to Life’ conference.

Hangzhou is a fast-growing city, with a population of around 10 million. It is regarded as China’s ‘Silicon valley’, home to the headquarters of globally successful Chinese IT companies such as Alibaba, Tencent (owners of WeChat), Hikvision, the largest video application supplier in the world and Huawai, the most famous Chinese mobile device company.

The conference was a showcase for both New Zealand and Chinese researchers. Themes included ‘Food for Health’ and ‘Digital Innovation’, with a focus on connections to research translation and commercialisation opportunities in the huge Chinese market.

The programme also included site visits to a range of funding, commercial and research organisations, involving presentations and meetings about possible collaborations.

Professor Bullen delivered two presentations, one on behalf of Prof Cliona Ni Mhurchu titled “Using new technologies to deliver and evaluate nutrition interventions”, and another on “Can mobile technology change behaviour? Lessons from a decade of research”.

Professor Ni Mhurchu, Professor Bullen and Dr Jiang* have a long-standing research collaboration with Professor Hai-Jun Wang at the Department of Maternal and Child Health and the Institute of Child and Adolescent Health at Peking University, Beijing, so this was a new venture in another part of China.

The Auckland team met with Professor Jie Shao, Director of the Department of Child Health Care and Chief Doctor, Department of Paediatrics at Zhejiang University School of Medicine who is keen to explore wearable camera research with infants and their caregivers.

Professor Bullen also met with tobacco control researchers at Zhejiang University, the premier university in Hangzhou. The meeting led to plans for a collaborative tobacco cessation intervention trial targeting Chinese adult men, around 45% of whom are smokers, to be led by Professor Bullen’s PhD student, Jimmy Chan.

* Professor Ni Mhurchu, Professor Bullen and Dr Jiang are founding members of the NCD CRCC, which partially sponsored their visit.

From left: Yannan Jiang; Chris Bullen; and Jimmy Chan.