Migrant voices needed for Australia’s largest study on women’s health

Thousands of migrant women are needed to provide invaluable data for the largest and longest-running women’s health study ever conducted in Australia to ensure it accurately reflects the current population.

The University of Queensland’s Professor Gita Mishra, Director of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health, said women who volunteered their information could help make a difference to the healthcare guidelines, policies and services that supported their communities.

“Representation in health research is important for women, and especially for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds,” Professor Mishra said.

“Clinical guidelines are largely based on data from women with European heritage, but this one-size-fits-all approach isn’t appropriate because women have different risk factors for disease, different diets, and go through major reproductive events at slightly different ages.”

The Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH), also known as Women’s Health Australia to its participants, is looking to recruit at least 1000 women born in South, Southeast and Northeast Asian countries between 1973 and 1978.

The Australian Government Department of Health funds ALSWH which is jointly managed by UQ and the University of Newcastle.

Since 1996, the study has followed more than 57,000 Australian women in four age groups: born 1989-95, 1973-78, 1946-51 and 1921-26.

Their data provides invaluable information about the health of women and has informed federal and state government policies across a wide range of issues.

While the groups were representative of the general population of women at the time, changes in immigration to Australia have altered the population’s cultural landscape.

ALSWH Deputy Director Professor Deb Loxton, from the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute, said it was exciting to welcome more women into the important project.

“The face of Australia changes every year, as we welcome people from other countries,” Professor Loxton said.

“The women in our study represented a great snapshot of women in 1996, but we need to make sure we represent women as they are in 2022, which means asking more women to join the study.”

Participants are required to compete a short online survey every few years to allow researchers to follow changes in their health and wellbeing over time.

To be eligible for the study, women must be born between 1973 and 1978 and have a Medicare card.

We are especially looking for women from these countries to join the study: China, Japan, Macau, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Myanmar, Lao, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka.

Women who are interested in joining the study can find more information on the ALSWH website.