From South Africa to Growing Up in New Zealand

02 September 2019
Dr Carin Napier

Dr Carin Napier comes to Growing Up in New Zealand all the way from South Africa and brings with her a passion for children’s nutrition.

Dr Napier is the latest addition to the Growing Up in New Zealand team and is excited to be part of this country’s largest longitudinal study.

“I have a passion for community work and children’s nutrition which is a great fit for a longitudinal study like Growing Up in New Zealand

“My background researching child poverty, different diets and food security is relevant because New Zealand, like South Africa and most other nations, is no stranger to poverty, malnutrition and obesity,” she says.

Dr Napier has spent the past few years at the Durban University of Technology and is best known for her research looking at malnutrition and obesity across the life span in South Africa. 

“Nutrition is a fascinating area to study.  One of the most interesting things we discovered was when we looked at three different feeding interventions in schools and discovered that even something as small as a fruit a day can have an impact on a child’s nutritional status,” she says.

In Durban, she headed the department of Consumer Science, Food and Nutrition, and was Director of Research at the University. 

Dr Napier says: “My background means I’m able to assist with the leadership of the Growing Up in New Zealand study, as well as to guide the research team and contribute to the flow of projects.”

“I know from my work interacting with communities in South Africa that ethics is very important.  People are trusting you with their information.” 

“People are vulnerable when they open up to you about hunger or poverty. For a community to share these things with a researcher is very humbling,” she says.

Dr Napier comes to New Zealand with her husband James and her two adult daughters.  The family is living near the sea and revelling in the comparative safety of the community. 

In South Africa, their home was in a guarded compound, and there was little ability to walk the streets or for the girls to catch a bus home safely.  Many years ago, the family even experienced a car-jacking.

“There are lots of new things to do and learn here,” she says.  “I see it as a new phase to my career and my life.  Learning more about New Zealand and Māori culture is going to be exciting.”