Does Indigenous health research have impact? A systematic review of reviews

Kinchin, Irina, McCalman, Janya, Bainbridge, Roxanne, Tsey, Komla, and Lui, Felecia Watkin (2017) Does Indigenous health research have impact? A systematic review of reviews. International Journal for Equity in Health, 16. 52. pp. 1-16.

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Background: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (hereafter respectfully Indigenous Australians) claim that they have been over-researched without corresponding research benefit. This claim raises two questions. The first, which has been covered to some extent in the literature, is about what type(s) of research are likely to achieve benefits for Indigenous people. The second is how researchers report the impact of their research for Indigenous people. This systematic review of Indigenous health reviews addresses the second enquiry.

Methods: Fourteen electronic databases were systematically searched for Indigenous health reviews which met eligibility criteria. Two reviewers assessed their characteristics and methodological rigour using an a priori protocol. Three research hypotheses were stated and tested: (1) reviews address Indigenous health priority needs; (2) reviews adopt best practice guidelines on research conduct and reporting in respect to methodological transparency and rigour, as well as acceptability and appropriateness of research implementation to Indigenous people; and (3) reviews explicitly report the incremental impacts of the included studies and translation of research. We argue that if review authors explicitly address each of these three hypotheses, then the impact of research for Indigenous peoples’ health would be explicated.

Results: Seventy-six reviews were included; comprising 55 journal articles and 21 Australian Government commissioned evidence review reports. While reviews are gaining prominence and recognition in Indigenous health research and increasing in number, breadth and complexity, there is little reporting of the impact of health research for Indigenous people. This finding raises questions about the relevance of these reviews for Indigenous people, their impact on policy and practice and how reviews have been commissioned, reported and evaluated.

Conclusions: The findings of our study serve two main purposes. First, we have identified knowledge and methodological gaps in documenting Indigenous health research impact that can be addressed by researchers and policy makers. Second, the findings provide the justification for developing a framework allowing researchers and funding bodies to structure future Indigenous health research to improve the reporting and assessment of impact over time.

Item ID: 48072
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1475-9276
Keywords: Indigenous health; research impact; closing the gap; research benefit; research value; translation; decision making; systematic review; overview
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© The Author(s). 2017. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), James Cook University (JCU)
Projects and Grants: ARC Discovery Indigenous Grant IN150100011, JCU Research and Innovation Grant
Date Deposited: 28 Mar 2017 23:12
FoR Codes: 42 HEALTH SCIENCES > 4206 Public health > 420699 Public health not elsewhere classified @ 60%
45 INDIGENOUS STUDIES > 4504 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing > 450422 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theory of change models for health @ 40%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920302 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Health Status and Outcomes @ 20%
92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920303 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health - Health System Performance (incl. Effectiveness of Interventions) @ 80%
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