Motivations for investigating health inequities in observational epidemiology: A content analysis of 320 studies

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health


Objectives: To enhance equity in clinical and epidemiological research, it is crucial to understand researcher motivations for conducting equity-relevant studies. Therefore, we evaluated author motivations in a randomly selected sample of equity-relevant observational studies published during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Study design and setting: We searched MEDLINE for studies from 2020 to 2022, resulting in 16,828 references. We randomly selected 320 studies purposefully sampled across income setting (high vs low-middle-income), COVID-19 topic (vs non-COVID-19), and focus on populations experiencing inequities. Of those, 206 explicitly mentioned motivations which we analyzed thematically. We used discourse analysis to investigate the reasons behind emerging motivations.
Results: We identified the following motivations: (1) examining health disparities, (2) tackling social determinants to improve access, and (3) addressing knowledge gaps in health equity. Discourse analysis showed motivations stem from commitments to social justice and recognizing the importance of highlighting it in research. Other discourses included aspiring to improve health-care efficiency, wanting to understand cause-effect relationships, and seeking to contribute to an equitable evidence base.
Conclusion: Understanding researchers' motivations for assessing health equity can aid in developing guidance that tailors to their needs. We will consider these motivations in developing and sharing equity guidance to better meet researchers' needs.


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Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Clinical Epidemiology