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Changing discourses in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research, 1914-2014

The value of health research to individuals and society is indisputable. It contributes to improvements in health care and public health by providing information about disease trends, risk and protective factors, patterns of care and health care costs, developing new therapies and treatments, and assessing the effectiveness of health interventions. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (respectfully, Indigenous hereafter when referenced together) health research therefore can make a critical contribution to raising the health and wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and other Australians. The degree to which health research is valuable, however, depends on its nature, quantity and quality.1

Arabena and Moodie note that “despite all the research and the medical interventions spanning decades, improvements — where they occur — are incremental and trend up at a slower rate than for non-Indigenous Australians”.2 In many reviews, concerns have been expressed about the overemphasis on descriptive research rather than research evaluating interventions in Indigenous health.1,36

In this centenary of the MJA, we describe how Indigenous health research has been influenced by colonial social…