Calls for more funding in migrant health research

Originally published July 2015

Migrants have been left out of national health research despite suffering “disproportionately” high levels of chronic disease, a new report has found.

Lead researcher Professor André Renzaho said migrants made up more than a quarter of the Australian population but were regularly overlooked in national health surveys and clinical trials due to English language requirements.

Between 2002 and 2011, fewer than 10 per cent of funding initiatives by the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council concerned migrants.

“The existing interventions that are now used as the basis of evidence to inform policy are excluding migrants, which means those interventions may actually be increasing inequality,” Professor Renzaho said.

“Up until now, it’s been about identifying barriers to healthcare but in terms of solutions it’s difficult because no one is willing to fund such a project even when reports tell us chronic disease is almost seven times higher for migrants.”

The report, published today in the Australian Health Review, calls for further funding into research involving migrant participants as well as increased communication between researchers and policymakers to help identify migrant health priorities.

Royal Children’s Hospital fellow Dr Nadia Chaves is revising the refugee health guidelines of the Australasian Society of Infectious Diseases and said researchers needed to look at the healthcare system itself.

“As soon as you step out of the specialist refugee space, there’s a complete lack of knowledge about what cultural considerations actually are and that suggests there needs to be more implementation research behind policy,” Dr Chaves said.

While state Minister for Multicultural Affairs Robin Scott said Victoria had a strong record of migrant support, he acknowledged there was “something of a gap” in health services.

“I’m a strong believer that there needs to be a public policy based on good evidence,” Minister Scott said.

Central Bayside Community Health Services community development coordinator Gulay Cevik said she relied on first-hand feedback, running regular outreach sessions for migrants with the help of government-funded interpreters.

“We know that the research shows some migrant groups tend to have higher instances of Type 2 diabetes, for example, so we ask those groups what they would like to see improved and try our best with the limited resources we have,” Ms Cevik said.

 

By Sherryn Groch

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