Wanless and other commentators have pointed to the need for better evidence on the effects of interventions to reduce health inequalities. Turning this demand into action however requires (i) identifying what we already know (in terms of the effects of interventions); and (ii) identifying the gaps and using this information to identify priorities for new primary and secondary research.
The aim of this project is to identify priorities for new systematic reviews, and for new primary studies evaluating interventions to tackle inequalities in health. The specific questions to be answered are:
We aim to use CRD’s Wider Public Health (WPH) database (a database of systematic reviews of public health and related interventions) as the main source for gathering the evidence. This database however is only current to the end of 2002 and we will build on the WPH work by:
With respect to dissemination, we will produce the following outputs: (i) a detailed final report (ii) an accompanying summary academic paper, and (iii) a non-academic summary report for wide dissemination and presentation. These papers will act as “position statements” regarding the current state of the evidence regarding priorities for new research, and as pointers towards potentially effective interventions. Given that some of this evidence will have been collected in other countries, we will also assess the generalisability of the findings to other contexts. This work is different to the WPH project in that, unlike WPH, it will seek to include primary research (including qualitative research relevant to the implementation of interventions), and it will use newly-emerging review methods to assess the generalisability of the findings. It will build on existing WPH work by including systematic reviews from 2002 onwards (which are not currently on the WPH database).
In effect we will use PHRC resources and our personal networks and contacts to document systematically the gaps in existing knowledge at the level of systematic reviews and primary research. This will allow us to identify what new research is now required in order to take forward the agenda outlined in the Wanless report. This will be an important contribution to moving public health research from documenting the lack of evidence, toward identifying specifically what research - in particular, what new systematic reviews - needs to be commissioned. This report will also be of value to DH PRP in helping set future priorities for primary and secondary research.