All three finalists for this year’s New Zealand of the Year Award have health connections along with at least four finalists for other award categories due to be announced in February.

Pay equity campaigner in the aged care sector Kristine Bartlett, mental health advocate Mike King and microbiologist and antibiotic resistance awareness campaigner Dr Siouxie Wiles were revealed today as the three finalists for the 2018 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year.

The 2018 New Zealander of the Year Awards also honour Kiwis who have performed with distinction in five other award categories.

Finalists in these categories include Liggins Institute medical researcher Professor Jane Harding, a Sanitarium New Zealand Innovator of the Year award finalist, who last year became the first person outside of the United States to win an American Pediatric Society award for her work leading the Sugar Babies trial that found sugar gel rubbed into a baby’s cheek was a successful treatment for low blood sugar in newborns.

Former University of Auckland child health researcher, 84-year-old Professor Bob Elliott and co-founder of Living Cell Technologies, is a finalist in the Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the year for his lifetime of work in child health research and his ongoing search for health innovations.

The Canterbury Charity Hospital Trust, led by Christchurch surgeon Phil Bagshaw is a finalist for the Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year, for its work in the past decade providing surgery and medical care to people unable to access public hospital treatment or afford private hospital services.

The boxer and weight-loss motivator Dave Letele (also known as Brown Butterbean), is a finalist in the Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year, for his work offering free boot camps all over Auckland to help people battle obesity using his own weight-loss story and experience as inspiration.

Kristina Cavit, a University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year award finalist, is founder of the Kindness Institute not-for-profit organisation that aims to improve mental health capabilities by delivering mindfulness and yoga-based progammes to groups including youth kicked out of school and women in prison.

Past KiwiBank New Zealander of the Year competition winners include Taika Waititi, Richie McCaw, Sir Stephen Tindall and Dr Lance O’Sullivan.

This year’s three finalists were chosen from a list of 10 people, which was whittled down from a total of 1118 nominations for the New Zealander of the Year title.

Chief judge Cameron Bennett said,

“These three Kiwis may come from very different backgrounds and work in very different fields, but they share admirable attributes of conscience, courage and commitment.

He said Kristine Bartlett, from Lower Hutt, had changed the lives of thousands of New Zealand women and low-paid workers by successfully securing equal pay legislation for caregivers in the aged-care sector.

The rest-home carer of 24 years was the face of the campaign for pay equity on behalf of 55,000 low-paid, mainly female care and support workers.

“At enormous personal sacrifice, Kristine Bartlett put herself forward as the face of the equal pay movement for caregivers in the aged-care sector,” Bennett said.

“In doing so she has changed the lives of thousands of New Zealand’s lowest paid workers who provide vital health and well-being services to many vulnerable Kiwis.

“She embodies the universal values of fairness, decency and equity.”

Bennett said mental health advocate Mike King shined much-needed light on the serious issues of depression, alcohol and drug abuse and suicide in New Zealand.

He is at the forefront of challenging perceptions of mental health to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness. He challenges established thinking to help society deal with the root causes of mental illness and be better equipped to support, and embrace, sufferers.

“Mike King knows first-hand the devastating impacts of depression, alcohol and drug abuse – particularly for Maori, children and young people,” Bennett said.

“His courage and conviction in advocating on behalf of Kiwis dealing with these issues inspires hope and optimism for those who need it most.”

Dr Siouxsie Wiles is a microbiologist and head of the Bioluminescent Superbugs Lab at the University of Auckland, working to increase understanding of infectious diseases.

He said Wiles is passionate and effective science communicator, who champions important public health issues, such as raising awareness of the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

“Dr Siouxsie Wiles is tackling one the biggest health issues facing New Zealand and the world, the growing threats of antibiotic-resistant superbugs and infectious diseases.

“Her innovative and pioneering work in bio luminescence is redefining modern medicine,” Bennett said.

The winners from each category will be revealed at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in Auckland on February 22.

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