Efforts to improve health equity should be informed by the best available evidence. However, equity-related research is inconsistently indexed, and uses a variety of terms to describe key concepts, making it difficult to reliably identify all relevant studies. We report the development and validation of a search strategy for studies investigating whether the effects of interventions differ by ethnicity or socio-economic status, using the field of transport and health as an example.
Adapting previously described methods, we followed four steps: generation of a test set of eligible studies, search strategy development, search strategy validation, and documentation.
Drawing from 12 systematic reviews, supplemented by additional studies identified by experts and colleagues, we identified a test set of 11 studies that met our eligibility criteria. We assigned five studies to a development set, which we used to develop and refine our search strategy. We assigned the remaining six studies to a validation set, against which we tested our final search strategy. The final search strategy identified all studies in both validation and development sets.
The validated search strategy derived in this study facilitates the conduct of systematic reviews and other literature searches investigating whether the effects of interventions differ by ethnicity or socio-economic status and may be further developed in future for other equity-focused searches and reviews.