Over half of the WHO guidelines published from 2014 to 2019 explicitly considered health equity issues: a cross-sectional survey
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate how and to what extent health equity considerations are assessed in World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: We evaluated WHO guidelines published between January 2014 and May 2019. Health equity considerations were assessed in relation to differences in baseline risk, importance of outcomes for socially disadvantaged populations, inclusion of health inequity as an outcome, equity-related subgroup analysis, and indirectness in each recommendation. RESULTS: We identified 111 WHO guidelines, and 54% (60 of 111) of these used the Evidence to Decision (EtD) framework. For the 60 guidelines using an EtD framework, the likely impact on health equity was supported by research evidence in 28% of the recommendations (94 of 332). Research evidence was mostly provided as differences in baseline risk (23%, 78/332). Research evidence less frequently addressed the importance of outcomes for socially disadvantaged populations (11%, 36/332), considered indirectness of the evidence for socially disadvantaged populations (2%, 5/332), considered health inequities as an outcome (2%, 5/332) and considered differences in the magnitude of effect in relative terms between disadvantaged and more advantaged populations (1%, 3/332). CONCLUSION: The provision of research evidence to support equity judgements in WHO guidelines is still suboptimal, suggesting the need for better guidance and more training.
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