Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

An examination of suicide research and funding in New Zealand 2006–16: implications for new research and policies

Daniel D. L. Coppersmith A C , Shyamala Nada-Raja A and Annette L. Beautrais B

A Department of Preventive and Social Medicine, University of Otago, PO Box 913, Dunedin, 9054, New Zealand. Email: shyamala.nada-raja@otago.ac.nz

B School of Health Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand. Email: Louis.beautrais@gmail.com

C Corresponding author. Email: daniel.dl.coppersmith@gmail.com

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16189
Submitted: 23 August 2016  Accepted: 8 February 2017   Published online: 16 March 2017

Abstract

Objective Suicide is a significant public health problem in New Zealand, with the youth suicide rate being one of the highest among developed countries. Increased suicide rates in recent years suggest that the evidence base and research priorities for New Zealand suicide prevention need to be reassessed. To inform policy development, the aim of the present study was to evaluate all peer-reviewed New Zealand published suicide research and major grant allocations from 2006 to 2016.

Methods The methodology duplicated a recent Australian review of suicide prevention research and funding. Publications and grant funding allocations were assessed independently. Key research databases were searched in April 2016 for all suicide-related publications. Identified papers were then classified by research type, population focus and type of self-injurious behaviour. Citation indices were obtained for each publication. Annual reports, newsletters and summary data from four major New Zealand funding bodies (the Health Research Council of New Zealand, Marsden Fund, Lottery Health Research and the Ministry of Health) were reviewed for funding allocations. Identified grants were coded for type of project, type of self-injurious behaviour and target population. Descriptive analyses were performed.

Results In all, 104 published articles and 27 grants met review criteria. Total funding was NZ$12 677 261.62. Most published articles were epidemiological in nature and the most common type of grant was for an intervention.

Conclusions In the past decade, a substantial number of articles has been published and significant funding was invested in New Zealand’s suicide research. The present review suggests that future research investments should focus on effective translation of research findings into suicide prevention programs. Several pragmatic recommendations are proposed to help improve the evidence base and reduce New Zealand’s suicide rates.

What is known about the topic? Suicide prevention continues to be a national public health priority for New Zealand. Although much is known about the prevalence of suicidal behaviours in New Zealand, less is known about how well suicide research has addressed prevention priorities and specific target populations. Australian research found that research funding and publications were dominated by epidemiological studies rather than evaluation or intervention studies. It is yet to be determined whether these research and funding trends also apply for New Zealand.

What does this paper add? This study examined all peer-reviewed and published suicide research and all major suicide prevention projects that have been funded in New Zealand between 2006 and 2016. The purpose of the review was to summarise the evidence base, evaluate funding and determine the ability of the evidence base to inform policy development. The findings demonstrate that the New Zealand research trends are similar to those found in Australia, with most studies being epidemiological and few representative of interventions.

What are the implications for practitioners? This review highlights that there were few intervention and evaluation studies. Partnerships between practitioners and/or community organisations implementing interventions and researchers to systematically evaluate existing interventions and develop new evidence-based interventions would help improve the evidence base for New Zealand suicide prevention.


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