Sex and gender policies in health and medical research

Why are we doing this research?

There is a long-standing assumption that medicine, and the research underpinning medical interventions, is gender neutral. However the important role sex and gender has in risk, detection, treatment and recovery is being uncovered for many major diseases.

Despite this, many research studies do not take sex and gender into account, leading to substantial evidence gaps.

The ‘Sex and Gender Policies in Health and Medical Research’ project focuses on the understanding, promotion and development of policies for sex and gender sensitive research across the health and medical research ecosystem within Australia. We examine what policies exist, the barriers and facilitators to developing and implementing such policies, provide examples of existing policies and show how to incorporate sex and gender policies across the spectrum of health and medicine.

This research and the development of policies incorporating sex and gender disaggregated research data will help ensure that Australian health research and science continues to be world leading, will provide better healthcare outcomes for all Australians, and will demonstrate a reduction in the economic health burden on Australia’s economy. 

How are we making an impact?

Members of the research team have been invited by Australia’s peak medical research funder, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), to provide ongoing advice on shaping their new sex and gender funding policy. Project chief investigator Dr Cheryl Carcel now sits on the NHMRC advisory board to assist in framing the policy and ensuring that their work aligns with our project.

We are also closely collaborating with the Australian Association of Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) the peak body for more than 50 medical research centres across the country, to develop their overarching sex and gender medical research policy. This has involved a three-stage co-design process which our team have taken the lead in organising with external consultants.

Acting as a conduit, members of our project team are helping to align the NHMRC’s and AAMRI’s policies to advance improved gender and sex research funding and research practices.


Our research team is also influencing policy design at the Commonwealth Government level. Recognising the value of our project, and in recognition of their position as leaders in the sector, two of our project investigators, Professor Robyn Norton and Dr Zoe Wainer, have been appointed to the Assistant Minister for Health Ged Kearny’s Women’s Medical Health Advisory Council. The council is working on policy development to improve gender discrimination and improved health outcomes for women across the Australian health system.

In 2022-3 we have published three articles, with three others currently under review, including with the Medical Journal of Australia and the Oxford Journal of Human Rights Practice. We have another three articles being prepared for publication and expect them to be submitted by December. This body of work is having an international impact, contributing to global knowledge about the benefits of improved sex and gender inputs in medical research.

This impact was evident in April 2023, when the project’s manager Lily Halliday and Scientia Professor Louise Chappell were invited to Tokyo, Japan to meet with researchers at Ochanomizu University’s Institute for Gendered Innovations to discuss building international collaborations on our research. We will hold our first webinar to share collaboration ideas in October 2023.

An ongoing unique feature of this project is our engagement through an advisory committee of health leaders in the trans, intersex, and Indigenous communities whose input into the project places us at the forefront of international practice and research.

A National Centre for Sex and Equity in Health and Medicine

The project team is leading the establishment of a National Centre for Sex and Gender Equity in Health and Medicine with the Australian Human Rights Institute, The George Institute for Global Health and Deakin University as founding partners. Consultation with key medical and health community stakeholders began in 2021/2022 and is ongoing.

Australia is the one of the only countries undertaking extensive research in this area that does not have a dedicated national home for sex and gender in medicine and health. With increasing activity and interest in this space, it is crucial to establish a dedicated centre for this work, to coordinate efforts and lead the way for Australia to ensure good practice and inclusive research.

Centre vision:To ensure that sex and gender are routinely considered in health and medical research, policy, and practice, with a view to improving health outcomes and reducing health inequitiesfor all Australians. 

The Centre will: 

  • Undertake and support the conduct of high-quality research.  
  • Facilitate the translation of research into evidence-informed policies and practices.  
  • Build capacity in addressing sex and gender health and medical inequities, via training and education. 
  • Communicate and advocate for the integration of sex and gender in health and medicine.
  • Engage and collaborate with end-users/consumersand otherstakeholdersto advance culturally appropriate activities. 

Read more about the Centre vision here

Read more about the benefits of joining the Centre here.

Centre website:

Centre launch video recordings are available here.

Project website

More details about our collaboration and the focus and outputs of the project can be found on the project website:

Who we are

This multi-year philanthropically-funded research project is led by the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW Sydney and The George Institute for Global Health, and builds on and expands previous and ongoing research in both Australia and globally.

  • Scientia Professor Louise Chappell (Australian Human Rights Institute)
  • Professor Robyn Norton (The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Professor Mark Woodward (The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Dr Cheryl Carcel (The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Dr Sue Haupt (The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Dr Zoe Wainer (Department of Health, Victoria)
  • Dr Kelly Thompson (The George Institute for Global Health)
  • Project Manager: Lily Halliday,


Policy brief: Sex, Gender and Health 

Sex and gender reporting in Australian health and medical research publications, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

Sex & Gender terminology glossary

Incorporating sex and gender in research – Where should I start?


Media releases