Culturally and linguistically diverse populations in medical research: perceptions and experiences of older Italians, their families, ethics administrators and researchers

  • Robyn Woodward-Kron
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Jo-anne Hughson
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Anna Parker
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Agnese Bresin
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • John Hajek
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Ute Knoch
    University of Melbourne, Australia.
  • Tuong Dien Phan
    University of Melbourne; St. Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne, Australia.
  • David Story
    University of Melbourne, Australia.


Background. Low-participation of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) patients in medical research remains a problem in migrant and refugee destination countries such as Australia. The aims of this study were to explore i) CALD persons’ perceptions and experiences of the medical system and medical research, in this case, older Italian Australians; and ii) the views of research professionals on CALD patient participation in medical research.

Design and Methods.
 A qualitative study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia, in 2015 utilising in-depth interviews and focus groups with four stakeholder groups: older Italian Australians (n=21); adult children of older Italian Australians (n=10); hospital Human Research Ethics Committee administrators (n=4); and clinical researchers (n=4). The data were analysed for content and thematic analysis.

. Themes for the CALD and family group were getting by in medical interactions; receptivity to medical research: testing the waters; and, receptivity to technology for support: passive versus active. Themes for the researcher and HREC groups about CALD patient participation in research were: exclusion; cultural factors; and e-consent.

. Our findings from four stakeholder perspectives and experiences confirm that there were considerable cultural, linguistic, and resourcing barriers hindering the participation of older Italian-Australians in medical research. Furthermore, our findings showed that in this study setting there were few enabling strategies in place to address these barriers despite the national ethics guidelines for equitable participation in research. The findings informed the creation of a multimedia tool whose purpose is to address and improve representation of CALD groups in clinical research.