Expert panel for Te Kukunetanga research programme launch

The panel will answer the question: Why is this programme of research important?

Panel members

Dr Julie Bhosale

Baby family nutrition and wellbeing expert

Dr Julie Bholsale is internationally renowned as a baby family nutrition and wellbeing expert. With a PhD in children's health, Dr Julie is on a mission to tackle the global health concerns affecting our families today - by nourishing children and parents. Dr Julie Bhosale ( has 26k followers on Facebook which shows the interest in family nutrition.

Helen Kilding

Defence Technology Agency

Helen Kilding is the Research Leader for Human Performance and Health research within the New Zealand Defence Force’s Defence Technology Agency (DTA). Helen and her team are committed to enhancing the selection, preparation, protection, and recovery of military personnel, to enhance operational effectiveness and long-term health and wellbeing.

We aim to provide evidence based post-pregnancy return to duty guidelines for military personnel. Currently following confirmation of pregnancy, and up to 12 months after delivery of the baby, a member of the military (air force, navy and army) is exempt from fitness testing, contact sports, and formal fitness classes. We would like to develop better guidelines that consider the individual pregnancy experiences for wahine. This means we need to firstly understand what the experiences and physical and mental health implications are for military personnel through the pregnancy journey.

“The ability to provide evidence-based, individualised, return to duty guidelines for military wahine would be extremely helpful. We are excited to see where this project goes and are delighted to lend our support through access to the NZDF’s 3D Body Scanner.”

Natalie Hardaker

ACC injury prevention

As Injury Prevention Partner - Falls, Sport & Traumatic Brain Injury at ACC Natalie is passionate about reducing falls and injuries in women across the life course. Natalie’s PhD is examining the effects of hormone levels on risk of, and recovery from brain injury in women and girls. Similar hormonal mechanisms play a role in wahine’s “brain fog” and ability to function often referred to during pregnancy and menopause.

“The female brain is in a constant state of flux, with the cyclical rise and fall of hormones across the menstrual cycle and also the changing hormone levels across the different life stages.”

Professor Elaine Rush

Nutrition and body composition expert

Over 40 years Professor Elaine Rush’s work in nutrition, body composition, metabolism, food security and the growth of children has contributed to the understanding of the health of New Zealand multi-ethnic communities and the prevention of noncommunicable diseases.

Dr Hannah Wyatt

Development biomechanist

As a biomechanist Dr Hannah Wyatt is fascinated by the key phases in life when substantial physical changes occur, including youth growth and pregnancy, and is devoted to furthering our understanding of how changes in body shape and size alter the way we move and stabilise ourselves.

“As one of the most complex processes a human body can undergo, there is so much about pregnancy we are yet to understand. The Te Kukunetanga programme of research provides an exciting opportunity for our multi-disciplinary team to generate new knowledge to advance health care practices for women in Aotearoa and around the world.”

Dr Heather Donald

Midwifery lecturer

Dr Heather Donald has balanced her career as a health professional with being a mother to 4 children and now being a grandmother to 8. Heather has worked as a Lead Maternity Care (LMC) midwife for over 20 years. Now she focuses on teaching and research to do with mother’s, babies and their whānau.

“A midwife is frequently asked about the safety of exercise during pregnancy and after the birth. Through the Te Kukunetanga research programme midwives will have evidence based information to inform their practice that is current and relevant for women and whānau in our communities in Aotearoa.”

Dr Nimisha Waller

Midwifery lecturer

Dr Nimisha Waller has been a midwife in the UK and in NZ since 1996. She has 3 children, one born in NZ! Nimisha has worked as a Lead Maternity Care midwife and within the DHB. She is passionate about midwifery and tries to balance practice, lecturing and research. Practice and being with and learning from women/whānau/family sustains her as a lecturer and researcher.

“There comes a point in pregnancy that you just can’t NOT waddle or have a pregnancy swag! It is inevitable! The findings from Te Kukunetanga programme of research will help to enhance our understanding of the effect this has on pregnancy and women/wahine/whanau and how best to manage these.”

Dr Dean Mahuta

te reo me ngā tikanga Māori

Dr Dean Mahuta, of Waikato, Tainui descent, is grounded in te reo me ngā tikanga Māori, and brings this knowledge into his role as cultural consultant for the research team. Dean and his wife are both fluent speakers of te reo Māori and acknowledge this privilege by continuing to raise their now 3 year old daughter completely in te reo.

Sabina Just

Midwife and PhD student

Sabina Just has a broad professional background in midwifery, movement therapy, and nursing. Over the last two decades she has studied the connection between motion and emotions which is documented in her Master’s thesis. Sabina is the creator of ‘Birth Signature’, a tool kit that assist and accompany pregnant women in their birthing journey. Sabina’s mission is to give babies a better start into their lives.

“Being pregnant and having a baby is not an overnight experience; it is the beginning of a process of transformation that includes physical, emotional and personal growth. I believe that the PEP study makes a difference to women and babies health and happiness.”

Sarah Ballard

Auckland NZ College of Midwives

Sarah Ballard has been practising in Auckland as a midwife for over 19 years in a variety of roles including over a decade lecturing midwifery at the Auckland University of Technology. Inclusion of New Zealand based research is integral to her practice as it reflects our country's cultural context and midwifery model of care.  In her practice she has observed how body shape changes and weight gain during pregnancy can have a negative physiological and psychological impact. Her passion is to empower individuals during their childbearing journey through positive health education.

"Each pregnancy is unique with its own challenges; The challenge for the midwife is in sharing knowledge so that it is understood, and asking the right question, in the right way, at the right time."

Matilda Green

Mother to Milo and Autumn, TV personality, author, entrepreneur, and dedicated to health and wellness

Matilida is a health and wellness advocate who incorporates exercise, nutrition and mental wellbeing practices into her life. This enables her to care for her unborn baby and her two year old son Milo and new baby girl Autumn, while still caring for herself and maintaining a positive relationship with her husband Art.

Matilda is attending the launch and is profiling Te Kukunetanga to help with disseminate findings from the studies on her Instagram channel that has over 128,000 followers.

Contact us

Dee Holdsworth-Perks
Te Kukunetanga Research Programme Coordinator
021 0511 579

Participant recruitment

Physical Evolution through Pregnancy (PEP)
Expression of interest