Background: No recent Australian studies or literature, provide evidence of the extent of coverage of multicultural health issues in Australian healthcare research. A series of systematic literature reviews in three major Australian healthcare journals were undertaken to discover the level, content, coverage and overall quality of research on multicultural health. Australian healthcare journals selected for the study were The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), The Australian Health Review (AHR), and The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZPH). Reviews were undertaken of the last twelve (12) years (1996-August 2008) of journal articles using six standard search terms: 'non-English-speaking', 'ethnic', 'migrant', 'immigrant', 'refugee' and 'multicultural'.
Results: In total there were 4,146 articles published in these journals over the 12-year period. A total of 90 or 2.2% of the total articles were articles primarily based on multicultural issues. A further 62 articles contained a major or a moderate level of consideration of multicultural issues, and 107 had a minor mention.
Conclusions: The quantum and range of multicultural health research and evidence required for equity in policy, services, interventions and implementation is limited and uneven. Most of the original multicultural health research articles focused on newly arrived refugees, asylum seekers, Vietnamese or South East Asian communities. While there is some seminal research in respect of these represented groups, there are other communities and health issues that are essentially invisible or unrepresented in research. The limited coverage and representation of multicultural populations in research studies has implications for evidence-based health and human services policy.