Jun 2, 2023

Health equity research in high-impact journals: Are communities being engaged?


Janavi Shetty, Research Coordinator at the Edwin S.H. Leong Centre for Healthy Children, recently presented at the Canadian Association for Health Services and Policy Research Conference on May 29. She provides a summary of her presentation titled “Community Engagement in Health Equity Research Published in High-Impact Medical Journals.” 

Community engagement is at the core of health equity; however, it is unknown whether communities are being engaged in health-equity focused research published in high-impact medical journals. To explore this, we conducted a systematic review of health equity-focused articles recently published by the JAMA Network, NEJM Group, and The Lancet Group. We assessed all health equity-focused articles for reported community engagement at various stages of the research process, specifically: study design, study implementation, data analysis, and acknowledgement and/or authorship.

Of the 7616 articles screened, 626 were health equity-focused. We found that 15.8% of health equity-focused articles engaged communities at any stage of the research process. Community engagement exists on a continuum and can range from limited involvement to full engagement throughout the entirety of a research project, and this was evident in our results. Among articles reporting community engagement, there was a wide range in the level of engagement, with the majority of articles only mentioning participants or community members in the acknowledgements section. A small number of articles (1.6%) reported community engagement at all stages of the research process. Most articles that engaged communities throughout the research process employed a qualitative study design. Our results indicate that there is a need for community engagement in the design and conduct of health equity-focused research published in high-impact journals. Ensuring community perspectives are reflected in grant guidelines and that the reporting of community engagement is standardized in health equity research will contribute to higher quality and accountability of research studies.

View her PowerPoint slide deck here