Dr Chunhuan Lao. 

We announced in May that the inaugural Arthritis New Zealand Lupus/ SLE Postdoctoral Fellowship was awarded to Dr Chunhuan Lao. 

The Lupus Fellowship is a significant new research funding opportunity made available through a generous bequest by the late Dorothy Ashbolt and began in July last year. This new addition to the Lupus field is highly significant, as the only paper showing the prevalence of SLE in Aotearoa was published in 1983. 

Dr Richard Griffiths, Research Manager at Arthritis NZ, visited Dr Chunhuan Lao and Professor Ross Lawrenson, one of her mentors, at Waikato Hospital towards the end of March 2023. 

Dr Lao was pleased to report that the research for her Lupus Postdoctoral Fellowship has been progressing very well, and she has covered a lot of important ground over the past nine months.

She has submitted her first research paper for publication about the “incidence” and “prevalence” of SLE to an international journal focusing on lupus-related research from across the world. “Incidence” and “prevalence” are technical terms often used in epidemiological or population studies. “Prevalence” describes the total number of cases of a particular disorder, condition, or disease present in a population at a specific time. “Incidence”, on the other hand, is the number of new cases of a particular disorder, condition, or disease over a period of time. 

Dr Lao has also finished writing up the second research paper from her project, which covers the subject of SLE and mortality or death. She will soon shift her focus to identifying the potential reasons for the ethnic differences concerning the incidence, prevalence and survival of SLE patients and also examine ways that these differences might be able to be reduced in the future.  

Dr Lao shared the following insights: 

  • There are approximately 2,100 people with SLE in New Zealand.  
  • Of these 2,100 patients, 1,850 are women, and 250 are men. 
  • The prevalence of SLE is more than three times amongst Pasifika patients compared to Pakeha/New Zealand Europeans. 
  • The prevalence of SLE is more than 1.5 times amongst Māori and Asian patients compared to Pākehā/New Zealand Europeans.  

Collecting national prevalence data for a health condition is essential for several reasons:

Firstly, it allows for an understanding of the scale of the issue and its impact on society. This data can inform policymakers and health organisations to allocate resources and develop interventions to address the problem.

Secondly, it can help to identify at-risk populations and inform targeted prevention and screening efforts.

Thirdly, the data can be used to monitor trends over time, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and identify areas for further research.

Collecting national lupus prevalence data is crucial for improving health outcomes for those with lupus and those at greater risk and ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need to manage and overcome health challenges.

As a health charity, it is important to us to advocate for collecting and using national prevalence data to support efforts to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve. We want to extend a big mihi (thank you/shout out) to Dr Chunhuan Lao for her efforts so far. 

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