Our research in refugee health focuses on enabling refugees to access high quality health care. Most refugee health services are provided within the primary health care setting. There is an increasing need for accurate data to inform health providers and health policy makers to enable high quality care to be delivered. There is also a need to reduce the barriers so that refugees can effectively access the care that is available. Although the majority of humanitarian refugees are granted visas off-shore and arrive as permanent residents with access to Medicare, this does not guarantee health access.

Our Discipline has been actively involved in recording the health parameters of newly arrived refugees and determining how these can be met most effectively addressed. We have completed two prevalence studies. Future studies will focus on enhancing the documentation of refugee health issues managed within different health sectors. This research recognises that non-communicable diseases also contribute significantly to the burden of health problems experienced in refugee communities.

While the barriers to health access for refugees have been well-described, it is still uncertain how these barriers can be best addressed. Our research has involved engagement with the refugee communities to ascertain their experiences of health care. Our research has also engaged with those providing refugee health care to identify the barriers that the providers experience. These studies will inform future health delivery programmes to enhance the health literacy within the refugee communities, to enhance the capacity of health providers and to develop a model for refugee health care delivery in Australia.

Collaborative research is essential in this field and our researchers have been actively working with other universities and health services in the development of our projects. Members of the  Discipline of General Practice are proud to be founding members of The Refugee Health Network of Australia (RHeaNA), contributing as clinicians and researchers to this national collaboration of refugee health service providers and policy makers across Australia.

Current projects

  • Refugee Health - Prevalence of chronic morbidities in newly arrived refugees: a preliminary study: This project gathered data on the prevalence of infectious and nutritional diseases in newly arrived refugees. (Funded as part of the"Primary care management, including health promotion and prevention, of chronic disease in refugee communities in Brisbane South with a view to development of a state-wide model." Funded through Connecting Healthcare In Communities (CHIC) Initiative with Chronic Disease Strategy, Queensland Health. Project Contact: Dr Margaret Kay)
  • Understanding the barriers and facilitators of health access for refugee communities in Brisbane: This project considered these issues from both the refugee and the primary health care providers' perspective.   (Funded by FMCER 2009 (RACGP), Project Contact: Dr Margaret Kay)​ 
    • Understanding the Barriers and Facilitators for Newly Arrived Refugees Accessing Health Care in Brisbane from the Perspective of Health Care Providers: This project used focus groups to gather data from primary health care providers (administrative staff, practice nurses and general practitioners) about how they delivered care to the refugees attending their centre - focusing on the barriers and facilitators they identified. (Funded by GPET, Project Contacts: Dr Margaret KayDr Rebecca FarleyDr Deborah Askew)
    • Understanding the Barriers to Health Access for Refugees Communities in Brisbane: This project used peer-interviewer technique to interview five newly-arrived refugee families about their experiences with health access to identify the barriers and facilitators of health access and to understand the rationale behind their health access.(Funded by CHIC, Project Contact: Dr Margaret Kay)
  • The prevalence of Vitamin B12 deficiency in newly arrived refugees to Australia: This project gathered data on the prevalence of Vitamin B12 deficiency in collaboration with multiple refugee health care providers involved with the Refugee Health Network of Australia (RHeaNA). This project will be included in the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Primary Health Care Research. (Project Contact: Dr Margaret Kay)
  • Coordinated primary health care for refugees: A best practice framework for Australia. This project focuses on the development of a model for refugee health care delivery. Beginning with a systematic review, key stakeholders will be actively involved in contributing to the development of a model that will be further refined through a Delphi process. Funded by APHCRI Coordination and the Vulnerable Consumer Health Care Research Scheme grant, Project ContactDr Margaret Kaysee also SAPCRU)

Contact us

For more information about our research, please contact Dr Margaret Kay