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BMJ Open ; 11(11): e052969, 2021 11 12.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1515303


INTRODUCTION: Causal methods have been adopted and adapted across health disciplines, particularly for the analysis of single studies. However, the sample sizes necessary to best inform decision-making are often not attainable with single studies, making pooled individual-level data analysis invaluable for public health efforts. Researchers commonly implement causal methods prevailing in their home disciplines, and how these are selected, evaluated, implemented and reported may vary widely. To our knowledge, no article has yet evaluated trends in the implementation and reporting of causal methods in studies leveraging individual-level data pooled from several studies. We undertake this review to uncover patterns in the implementation and reporting of causal methods used across disciplines in research focused on health outcomes. We will investigate variations in methods to infer causality used across disciplines, time and geography and identify gaps in reporting of methods to inform the development of reporting standards and the conversation required to effect change. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: We will search four databases (EBSCO, Embase, PubMed, Web of Science) using a search strategy developed with librarians from three universities (Heidelberg University, Harvard University, and University of California, San Francisco). The search strategy includes terms such as 'pool*', 'harmoniz*', 'cohort*', 'observational', variations on 'individual-level data'. Four reviewers will independently screen articles using Covidence and extract data from included articles. The extracted data will be analysed descriptively in tables and graphically to reveal the pattern in methods implementation and reporting. This protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020143148). ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: No ethical approval was required as only publicly available data were used. The results will be submitted as a manuscript to a peer-reviewed journal, disseminated in conferences if relevant, and published as part of doctoral dissertations in Global Health at the Heidelberg University Hospital.

Delivery of Health Care , Research Design , Causality , Humans , San Francisco , Systematic Reviews as Topic
PLoS One ; 16(4): e0250778, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1207637


INTRODUCTION: Pooling (or combining) and analysing observational, longitudinal data at the individual level facilitates inference through increased sample sizes, allowing for joint estimation of study- and individual-level exposure variables, and better enabling the assessment of rare exposures and diseases. Empirical studies leveraging such methods when randomization is unethical or impractical have grown in the health sciences in recent years. The adoption of so-called "causal" methods to account for both/either measured and/or unmeasured confounders is an important addition to the methodological toolkit for understanding the distribution, progression, and consequences of infectious diseases (IDs) and interventions on IDs. In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and in the absence of systematic randomization of exposures or interventions, the value of these methods is even more apparent. Yet to our knowledge, no studies have assessed how causal methods involving pooling individual-level, observational, longitudinal data are being applied in ID-related research. In this systematic review, we assess how these methods are used and reported in ID-related research over the last 10 years. Findings will facilitate evaluation of trends of causal methods for ID research and lead to concrete recommendations for how to apply these methods where gaps in methodological rigor are identified. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: We will apply MeSH and text terms to identify relevant studies from EBSCO (Academic Search Complete, Business Source Premier, CINAHL, EconLit with Full Text, PsychINFO), EMBASE, PubMed, and Web of Science. Eligible studies are those that apply causal methods to account for confounding when assessing the effects of an intervention or exposure on an ID-related outcome using pooled, individual-level data from 2 or more longitudinal, observational studies. Titles, abstracts, and full-text articles, will be independently screened by two reviewers using Covidence software. Discrepancies will be resolved by a third reviewer. This systematic review protocol has been registered with PROSPERO (CRD42020204104).

Communicable Diseases/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , Causality , Humans , Longitudinal Studies , Meta-Analysis as Topic , Systematic Reviews as Topic