Joanna Norris, Chief Executive, ChristchurchNZ

Canterbury’s health system is internationally recognised for its innovation, integration and collaboration – bringing significant benefits for residents’ health and delivering economically for the city and regions.

At the geographical heart of the health system is the Te Papa Hauora / Health Precinct, which brings together health education, research and innovation and invites participation from both commercial and community interests.

The Precinct’s broader approach to collaborative working is allowing wider commercial innovation in the health sector and mirrors the wider ethos of our city. Christchurch is a city of opportunity and exploration that is open to new ideas and ways of doing things. We challenge the status quo and explore the future across all sectors and industries with the aim of better outcomes for our people.

Canterbury’s integrated health system is recognised as one of the best and most innovative in the world, where creative solutions to global health issues are being imagined and turned into commercial realities. 

Our enviable health system brings international visitors to our city every year to see what we are achieving. Canterbury clinicians and leaders are sought-after speakers at international forums. This continues to build our reputation and helps foster the right environment for further entrepreneurship in the sector.

It was right here in Christchurch that the MARS colour scanner – a true colour CT machine – was invented by father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler. Anthony is a radiologist and Professor at both the Universities of Otago and Canterbury, while his father is a physicist at University of Canterbury.

GE Healthcare has recently donated a $1 million state-of-the-art scanner to the project team. The donated CT scanner’s output will be compared with output from the MARS scanner as its development team finalise a human-sized model, and so groups, including Lincoln University, can use it in their research.

This is collaboration in action. Kiwi entrepreneurs working alongside an American multinational to investigate cutting-edge technologies to improve healthcare worldwide. The calibre of the work has been recognised with MARS Bioimaging being named as a finalist in the 2018 NZ Hi-Tech Awards.

Close partnerships are also highlighted in the life-saving discoveries of the University of Otago’s Christchurch Heart Institute (CHI), working alongside Canterbury District Health Board clinicians and patients who agree to participate in research studies.

The CHI discovered a hormone in the blood and its relationship to a heart under stress. The subsequent test they developed is now being used in emergency departments around the world to diagnose heart failure. Faster diagnosis leads to faster and more appropriate treatment and, ultimately, saves lives.

The CHI is continuing to discover, and develop tests for the commercial market, to diagnose different types of heart disease.

This work is all testament to the success of our health system and demonstrates the huge social and economic potential that we can continue to tap into. Not only are these innovations bringing better health results for our people, as well as others around the world, they are strengthening our city and region’s economy through creation of jobs and goods and services for export.

It really is a win for Christchurch. We are proud our city has created a health environment that allows the exploration of ideas and innovation with impact – leading to healthier people and better lives.