Growing Health Innovation with Dr Joanna Chu

NIHI turns 30 this year. That’s 30 years of ground-breaking work that has help shape research, informed policy and driven innovation. In the lead up to our conference celebration, we spoke to the team and found out more about the people behind the work. Next, we spoke to Dr Joanna Chu, one of our Research Fellows.


What were you doing 30 years ago?

I was in Hong Kong, not knowing that I would spend most of my life in New Zealand. I was in kindergarten, almost ready to start primary school. I would be on the school bus every morning, carrying my big school bag.

What do you see as the biggest advance in public health/research/technology in the last 30 years?

There have been so many innovations that have reshaped many aspects of health. The biggest I see are the internet and mobile technology. We are now able to access information anytime anywhere.

What are you working on now that would have been unthinkable 30 years ago?

Smartphones. We are able to use them to deliver mhealth interventions, reaching many people that would have been considered difficult to reach. At the same time, we are dealing with the impact of smartphones, particularly for our younger generations. We are starting to see research showing the downside of having them, the constant accessibility, the distraction and possibly addiction that it can create. 

Why did you choose to join NIHI?

People. NIHI has a team of staff from diverse background, with everyone being so willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Not only researchers, but IT developers, project managers, statisticians, and administrative staff, which all makes NIHI unique.

What’s your fondest memory from your time at NIHI?

It's still the people, great colleagues that celebrate your success, and also supportive and encouraging at difficult times. 

What is exciting to you about research/technology/public health today?

The rapid advancement of technology, it's challenging but it's also enabled many wonderful opportunities. 

What do you see as the biggest challenge you face in your work today?

Time, funding and translating research into real-world practice. We are in a restrictive environment with limited resources. Even when you have ideas, it takes time to get funding, to do good quality research, and to disseminate the findings. This also impacts on implementation in the real world. Given how rapid the world is moving, research often can't catch up.

What predictions do you have for the next 30 years?

Technology will continue to advance, but I think people will see that there are things that technology simply can't replace. Face-to-face communication, the human interaction and building relationships, these are all fundamental to wellbeing, and hopefully, alongside technological advancement, we are able to ensure that these skills are not lost in our future generations.