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Queen Mary academic awarded prestigious funding on access to care for women from ethnic minority and migrant groups

IHSS Fellow and Strategic Senior Lecturer in Queen Mary University of London’s School of Law has been awarded a highly competitive grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to support ground-breaking work on access to care for women from ethnic minority and migrant groups.

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Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences Fellow and Senior Lecturer Camillia Kong has been selected for almost £1million funding* from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), which funds outstanding original research across the whole range of the arts and humanities.

Camillia Kong will use the funding to lead a team of researchers that will examine the lived experiences of ethnic minority and migrant women and their barriers in accessing maternal and reproductive healthcare across the reproductive life course.

The project ‘Reproductive Borders and Bordering Reproduction: Access to Care for Women from Ethnic Minority and Migrant Groups’ seeks to provide practical, policy and academic insights into the extent to which medical and legal structures create barriers in accessing necessary healthcare, as well as exploring the agency of women and medical professionals in negotiating these structures. 

Recent research shows a significant disparity in maternal mortality rates: five-fold for Black African/Caribbean women and almost two-fold for South Asian (especially Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) women compared to White women. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened these gaps, with over half of pregnant COVID-19 patients hospitalised; seven of eight deaths were among ethnic minorities. These figures underscore urgent need to address reproductive/maternal health inequality through extensive research and policy reform.

The project will:

  1. Explore the roles of minority and migrant women in overcoming barriers in reproductive and maternal care, along with NHS staff dealing with immigration policies.
  2. Introduce a new method that combines philosophy, law, real-world research, and artistic approaches to better understand and engage with inequality and oppression.
  3. Help create practical policy recommendations based on real experiences.


Commenting on the award, Camillia Kong said: "I am truly honoured and excited to receive this substantial funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This support recognises the urgent need to address the complex challenges that ethnic minority and migrant women face in accessing maternal and reproductive healthcare. With this funding, our project 'Reproductive Borders and Bordering Reproduction' will delve deep into the lived experiences of these women, dismantling the barriers they encounter within medical and legal frameworks. By blending multiple disciplines and perspectives, including philosophy, law, and artistic approaches, we aspire not only to uncover inequalities but also to empower these women by amplifying their stories. This research is a vital step toward driving policy reform and forging a path to equitable healthcare access for all."

The project is scheduled to begin in February 2024. The research will be led by Dr Camillia Kong (QMUL) and the other co-Investigators on the project are: Dr Ulla McKnight (Sussex), Dr Sarah Milton (KCL), Professor Sheelagh McGuinness (Bristol), and Professor Devyani Prabhat (Bristol). 

* Funding breakdown: The full economic costing for the project is: £992,823.06 The budget allocated to QMUL: £277,188.95 

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