Addressing migration-related social and health inequalities in Australia: Call for research funding priorities to recognise the needs of migrant populations

Andre Renzaho, Michael Polonsky, David Mellor, Sheila Cyril

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Objective Migrants constitute 26% of the total Australian population and, although disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, they are under-represented in health research. The aim of the present study was to describe trends in Australian Research Council (ARC)- and National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC)-funded initiatives from 2002 to 2011 with a key focus on migration-related research funding. Methods Data on all NHMRC- and ARC-funded initiatives between 2002 and 2011 were collected from the research funding statistics and national competitive grants program data systems, respectively. The research funding expenditures within these two schemes were categorised into two major groups: (1) people focused (migrant-related and mainstream-related); and (2) basic science focused. Descriptive statistics were used to summarise the data and report the trends in NHMRC and ARC funding over the 10-year period. Results Over 10 years, the ARC funded 15354 initiatives worth A$5.5 billion, with 897 (5.8%) people-focused projects funded, worth A$254.4million. Migrant-related research constituted 7.8% of all people-focused research. The NHMRC funded 12399 initiatives worth A$5.6 billion, with 447 (3.6%) people-focused projects funded, worth A$207.2million. Migrant-related research accounted for 6.2% of all people-focused initiatives. Conclusions Although migrant groups are disproportionately affected by social and health inequalities, the findings of the present study show that migrant-related research is inadequately funded compared with mainstream-related research. Unless equitable research funding is achieved, it will be impossible to build a strong evidence base for planning effective measures to reduce these inequalities among migrants. What is known about the topic? Immigration is on the rise in most developing countries, including Australia, and most migrants come from low- and middle-income countries. In Australia, migrants constitute 26% of the total Australian population and include refugee and asylum seeker population groups. Migrants are disproportionately affected by disease, yet they have been found to be under-represented in health research and public health interventions. What does this paper add? This paper highlights the disproportions in research funding for research among migrants. Despite migrants being disproportionately affected by disease burden, research into their health conditions and risk factors is grossly underfunded compared with the mainstream population. What are the implications for practitioners? Migrants represent a significant proportion of the Australian population and hence are capable of incurring high costs to the Australian health system. There are two major implications for practitioners. First, the migrant population is constantly growing, therefore integrating the needs of migrants into the development of health policy is important in ensuring equity across health service delivery and utilisation in Australia. Second, the health needs of migrants will only be uncovered when a clear picture of their true health status and other determinants of health, such as psychological, economic, social and cultural, are identified through empirical research studies. Unless equitable research funding is achieved, it will be impossible to build a strong evidence base for planning effective measures to reduce health and social inequalities among migrant communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • asylum seekers
  • Australian Research Council
  • equitable funding
  • low-and middle-income countries
  • National Medical Research Council
  • refugees
  • research advocacy

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