If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, will 12 weeks of free, healthy food delivered to a patient's door keep the cardiologist at bay?
University of Otago department of medicine post-doctoral fellow Dr Andrew Reynolds hopes to find out with funding announced today from the Health Research Council.
Reynolds is one of six Otago researchers to be granted a $150,000 Explorer Grant.
The funding is aimed at supporting transformative research ideas that have a good chance of making a revolutionary change in managing New Zealanders' health.
His project looks at whether providing healthy groceries to patients recovering from heart attacks is less expensive for the health system than the cost of providing future medical care.
Heart disease was a primary cause for morbidity and mortality in New Zealand, Reynolds said.
"We know that long-term dietary choices are leading factors in heart attack incidence, particularly high saturated fats and sodium intakes, and low fibre or vegetable intakes.
"This is a randomised controlled trial of 300 participants based in Otago, Southland and Canterbury who are recovering from a heart attack.
"The trial itself is 12 weeks of free groceries delivered to participants' front doors.
"We want to know if providing these groceries improves their health status."
He said the participants would then be followed for 12 months after the trial to see if what they ate had been changed by their participation in the study.
The study would also see if the healthy food had any long-term health benefits, such as preventing further heart attacks.
"The cost to the healthcare system is high due to the hospital time, the medications and procedures, and the level of care people need from our fantastic nurses and hospital staff during their immediate recovery.
"Because of this, we are really interested to see if the cost of delivering groceries to everyone with a heart attack is cheaper than the cost of rehospitalisations for those who have a secondary event."
Reynolds said changing people's habits might be the biggest hurdle of the research.
"We are also seeking to understand this better, and see if we can come up with better ways to support people to change what they eat in the future."
Other Explorer Grant winners from the University of Otago are:
- Dr Christoph Goebl (Christchurch campus) who aims to create a novel and simple tool for tumour diagnosis and treatment prognosis.
- Associate Prof Rajesh Katare (Dunedin) who will explore whether measuring heart-enriched micro RNAs from salivary samples can be a simple tool to determine the progress of heart disease.
- Dr Rachel Purcell (Christchurch) who will look at circulating bacterial DNA for early detection of metastasis in colorectal cancer.
- Dr Robin Quigg (Dunedin) who aims to identify and describe the relationships between health and land for Māori.
- Dr Alexander Tups (Dunedin) who will explore glucoregulation by leptin to repair body tissue.