A systematic review to identify research priority setting in Black and minority ethnic health and evaluate their processes

Publication authors

Halima Iqbal ,Jane West,Melanie Haith-Cooper,Rosemary R. C. McEachan


Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities suffer from disproportionately poorer health than the general population. This issue has been recently exemplified by the large numbers of infection rates and deaths caused by covid-19 in BAME populations. Future research has the potential to improve health outcomes for these groups. High quality research priority setting is crucial to effectively consider the needs of the most vulnerable groups of the population.

The purpose of this systematic review is to identify existing research priority studies conducted for BAME health and to determine the extent to which they followed good practice principles for research priority setting.

Included studies were identified by searching Medline, Cinnahl, PsychINFO, Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection, as well as searches in grey literature. Search terms included “research priority setting”, “research prioritisation”, “research agenda”, “Black and minority ethnic”, “ethnic group”. Studies were included if they identified or elicited research priorities for BAME health and if they outlined a process of conducting a research prioritisation exercise. A checklist of Nine Common Themes of Good Practice in research priority setting was used as a methodological framework to evaluate the research priority processes of each study.

Out of 1514 citations initially obtained, 17 studies were included in the final synthesis. Topic areas for their research prioritisation exercise included suicide prevention, knee surgery, mental health, preterm birth, and child obesity. Public and patient involvement was included in eleven studies. Methods of research prioritisation included workshops, Delphi techniques, surveys, focus groups and interviews. The quality of empirical evidence was diverse. None of the exercises followed all good practice principles as outlined in the checklist. Areas that were lacking in particular were: the lack of a comprehensive approach to guide the process; limited use of criteria to guide discussion around priorities; unequal or no representation from ethnic minorities, and poor evaluation of their own processes.

Research priority setting practices were found to mostly not follow good practice guidelines which aim to ensure rigour in priority setting activities and support the inclusion of BAME communities in establishing the research agenda. Research is unlikely to deliver useful findings that can support relevant research and positive change for BAME communities unless they fulfil areas of good practice such as inclusivity of key stakeholders’ input, planning for implementation of identified priorities, criteria for deciding on priorities, and evaluation of their processes in research priority setting.