Professor Andrew Day – New Chair of Paediatric Research at University of Otago, Christchurch

In addition to our annual granting round, Cure Kids proudly funds four University Chairs in perpetuity.  Following Professor Brian Darlow’s retirement, Cure Kids is pleased to announce that Professor Andrew Day has accepted the position of Chair of Paediatric Research at University of Otago, Christchurch.

Prof Day is a paediatric gastroenterologist based in Christchurch.  After training in Canada and working in Sydney for many years, he returned to New Zealand in 2009.  Prof Day has extensive expertise in Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) in children and adolescents, of which New Zealand has some of the highest rates in the developed world.

His programme of research focuses on specific aspects of IBD, and is leading to improved outcomes for young patients living with the condition.

Recent research has shown that rates of the debilitating disease (including Crohn’s disease) among South Island children are up to three times higher than their North Island counterparts.  The difference between the islands is not fully understood, but could be due to variations in sunlight, and the corresponding vitamin D levels.

Prof Day has advised that there is a growing incidence of IBD in children worldwide, yet the reasons behind the high rates in New Zealand are poorly understood. One theory he has for the difference between the North and South Islands is that South Island children could have lower levels of vitamin D.  This has implications for their immune system as vitamin D is involved in the production of a molecule that plays a key defensive role in the gut.

The ‘vitamin D theory’ is validated by European research showing that colder places, such as Scandinavia, have higher rates of the disease than warmer countries on the continent.  The reason for an increasing number of children being diagnosed with IBD is a subject of intense debate and scrutiny internationally.  It could be that children are eating far more processed foods than whole foods, or that children do not play outdoors as much, reducing exposure and immunity to germs.

An IBD diagnosis is a lifelong condition with no cure.  For those with more severe forms of the disease, there are often hospital stays to administer medication, or for surgery.  Some children need to have regular injections or infusions of medication. Prof Day’s work aims to improve outcomes from this significant condition.