Health outcomes in Australia for the large part, are better than ever before, but some groups still experience greater rates of disease and poorer access to quality healthcare. UNSW Medicine has major strengths in researching the health of vulnerable and marginalised communities, including: 

  • migrant and refugee groups  
  • people with mental illness  
  • offenders  
  • people with disabilities 
  • those from lower socio-economic backgrounds 
  • LGBTQI+ communities 
  • homeless people 
  • people who are geographically and socially isolated. 

Our research focusses on why health inequalities occur and the social determinants of health in disadvantaged groups. We study the structural factors that affect healthcare for vulnerable communities. Our research has designed new interventions for members of these groups.

Carer and elderly man

Vulnerable Communities Research Strengths

UNSW Medicine research strengths include:

Offender incarcerated

Case Study: Improving Health of Offenders

UNSW Medicine runs Australia’s largest justice health research program through the NHMRC Australian Centre of Research Excellence in Offender Health, based at the Kirby Institute. Its research is at the nexus of public health and criminal justice and looks at the interaction between the two.

Offenders have some of the worst health outcomes of anyone in the community. They have higher levels of infectious disease, sexually transmitted infections, mental health problems and cardiovascular disease. Many of the causes of their offending can relate to these health issues. By treating issues like mental illness and impulsivity, we can reduce the rate of reoffending.

We’ve been highly successful in treating impulsive, violent men with antidepressant medication. With the support of the criminal justice system, we’re trialing this approach to reduce rates of reoffending in in Sydney and the Central Coast.

Computer keyboard

Online to Improve Treatment of Mental Health and Substance Use Problems - Case Study

There are currently no systematic procedures or policies in place to integrate eHealth programs into clinical practice in mental health, alcohol/drug or any broader healthcare setting in Australia.  

Our team is the first to address this issue via a partnership between researchers at UNSW, the University of Newcastle, and the NSW Ministry of Health which has built the eCliPSE portal.  

This online tool facilitates connections between mental health, and alcohol and drug services in NSW. The portal brokers access to evidence-based eHealth screening tools, information, and self-help treatment programs for patients and healthcare workers.