National Science Challenge

16 September 2016

Professor Jim Warren is a principal investigator in a team led by Professor Sally Merry (Head of Psychological Medicine at the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences) that has won a large project grant from the MBIE National Science Challenge 'A Better Start – E Tipu e Rea'.

'A Better Start' has been awarded funding of up to $34.7 million over 10 years. Jim, who is Professor of Health Informatics at the Department of Computer Science, is working with Sally on research called HABITS, 'Health Advanced through Behavioural Intervention Technologies' – one of the four initial projects in 'A Better Start  (the other three projects address childhood obesity, literacy and use of Big Data).

Hosted by the University of Auckland, HABITS aims to reduce the personal and societal burden of poor mental health through the provision of an accessible and appealing digital platform.

The platform will include an e-screening tool to detect adolescents at risk of mental health disorders, notably anxiety and depression, and will provide access to effective intervention using Behavioural Intervention Technologies (BITs). And will be designed via the progressive development and testing of prototypes, so that it will be ultimately acceptable and engaging to adolescents (particularly Māori and Pacific people).

The developed platform will increase detection of common mental health problems and provide a first-tier intervention for adolescents, while providing monitoring and feedback on progress to the individual undertaking these interventions.

“We have funding for three years from 'A Better Start' in the first instance and have begun recruitment of IT staff through the National Institute for Health Innovation. We expect to be announcing scholarships in a range of discipline areas shortly.  Māori and Pacific applicants will be most welcome,” says Jim.

For More information: A Better Start – E Tipu e Rea