Professor Joan Cunningham

Senior principal research fellow


Doctor of Science (Epidemiology), Harvard School of Public Health, 1994; Master of Liberal Arts (Psychology), Harvard University, 1991; Bachelor of Arts (Sociology), Harvard University, 1985.

Approved level of HDR supervision at Charles Darwin University:

Principal Supervisor for PhD




Professor Joan Cunningham is a social epidemiologist with a core focus on equity in health and health care. Her recent research has spanned a range of topics including the social determinants of end-stage renal disease and other chronic diseases, health system performance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with cancer, the health impacts of discrimination, the health of Indigenous people in urban areas, and improving the quality, availability and use of routinely collected data about Indigenous Australians.

Prof Cunningham currently co-leads a multi-million dollar Centre of Research Excellence on Indigenous cancer care, and holds a National Health and Medical Research Council Senior Research Fellowship. She was previously the first epidemiologist and director of research at the Australian Government’s National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics from 1995-2000 and was president of the Australasian Epidemiological Association (AEA) from 2000-2004, the first woman and first non-doctor in that role.

Prof Cunningham has a strong interest in developing people and building research capacity and was awarded the AEA’s Mentoring Award in recognition of her work in this area. She has been supported by over $11.8 million in grants and consultancies since 2000, including approximately $8 million in competitive grants from the NHMRC. She has over 100 publications to date.

  1. Cunningham, J., & Paradies, Y.C. (2013). Patterns and correlates of self-reported racial discrimination among Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults, 2008-09: Analysis of national survey data. International Journal for Equity in Health. (in press).
  2. Anderson, K., Cunningham, J., Devitt, J., Preece, C., & Cass, A. (2012). “Looking back to my family”: Indigenous Australian patients’ experience of hemodialysis. BMC Nephrology, 13:114.
  3. Paradies, Y., & Cunningham, J. (2012). The DRUID study: Exploring mediating pathways between racism and depressive symptoms among Indigenous Australians.  Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 47(2), 165-173.
  4. Cunningham, J. (2010). Socioeconomic status and self-reported asthma in Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian adults aged 18-64 years: analysis of national survey data. International Journal for Equity in Health, 9:18.
  5. Cunningham, J. (2010). Socioeconomic gradients in self-reported diabetes for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians aged 18-64. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 34, S18-S24.
  6. Cunningham, J., Rumbold, A.R., Zhang, X., & Condon, J.R. (2008). The incidence, aetiology and outcomes of cancer in Indigenous peoples in Australia.  Lancet Oncology, 9(6), 585-95.
  7. Cunningham, J., & Dunbar, T. (2007). Consent for long-term storage of blood samples by Indigenous Australian research participants: the DRUID Study experience. Epidemiologic Perspectives & Innovations, 4:7.
  8. Cunningham, J., O’Dea, K., Dunbar, T., Weeramanthri, T., Zimmet, P., & Shaw, J. (2006).  Study Protocol–Diabetes and related conditions in urban Indigenous people in the Darwin, Australia region: aims, methods and participation in the DRUID Study. BMC Public Health, 6:8.
  9. Cass, A., Cunningham, J., Snelling, P., Wang, Z., & Hoy, W. (2004). Exploring the pathways leading from disadvantage to end-stage renal disease for Indigenous Australians. Social Science & Medicine, 58(4), 767-785.
  10. Cunningham, J. (2002). Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures among Australian hospital patients identified as Indigenous. Medical Journal of Australia, 176(2), 58-62.
Click here to view more Joan Cunningham publications in PubMed.