NHMRC and the Department of Health and Aged Care (the Department) (responsible for implementation of the Medical Research Future Fund, MRFF) are developing a Statement on Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation in Health and Medical Research (the Statement), reflecting a joint commitment to improve the integration of sex and gender considerations in health and medical research.

The proposed objective of the Statement is to improve health outcomes by promoting greater inclusion of sex, sexuality, and gender diverse people in research; more analysis and reporting of sex and gender considerations in research; and greater consideration of inclusive, appropriate, and targeted implementation of research. The overall goal is that where sex and gender differences are found to exist, they can be incorporated to provide safer healthcare and more inclusive, more appropriate and better targeted health policies and services.  

It is anticipated that this Statement will:

  • recognise and promote the importance of integrating sex and gender considerations in health and medical research
  • promote the consistent use of sex and gender classifications in data collection and analysis
  • encourage early engagement to co-design with relevant stakeholders and communities.

The Statement will cover all stages of research, including prioritisation and research question setting, conduct, data collection, analysis, reporting and translation.

The Statement will effectively align with the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) Standard for Sex, Gender, Variations of Sex Characteristics and Sexual Orientation (2020 Standard) to promote the standardised collection and dissemination of statistical data relating to 4 variables:

  • Sex 
  • Gender
  • Variations of sex characteristics
  • Sexual orientation.

NHMRC and the Department will work with the sector in the development of this Statement.

On 22 March 2023, a workshop was held to better understand the issues the Statement should address. The workshop included voices from a range of researchers, biostatisticians, consumers, representatives and stakeholders with experience and expertise in sex and gender matters related to health and medical research. Presentations from both The George Institute for Global Health and LGBTIQ+ Health Australia were facilitated to support open discussion among attendees.

A broader sector consultation process will now follow, with public consultation on a draft Statement planned for the second half of 2023. Additionally, NHMRC and MRFF advisory committees will provide advice throughout the Statement’s development.  

To keep informed on this work, including updates on the public consultation process, subscribe to NHMRC’s newsletter, Tracker and the MRFF’s newsletter.