Objective: To assess whether ethnic differences present in the scientific literature used as the basis for the Dutch College of General Practitioner's (NHG) practice guidelines were reflected in the ethnic-specific information the guidelines contained.
Design: Analysis of published information.
Method: The scientific literature used as the basis for the guidelines about type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and asthma in adults was collected and carefully screened. Relevant ethnic-specific information was compared to the content of the guidelines.
Results: Several relevant ethnic differences were stated in the scientific literature used as the basis for the guidelines. Differences in prevalence and clinical progress were stated for type 2 diabetes mellitus, differences in lung-volume were stated for asthma and differences in prevalence, onset, complications, response to pharmacological treatment and dietary salt restriction were stated for hypertension. The type 2 diabetes mellitus guideline stated a higher prevalence of diabetes in Hindustani people and recommended earlier screening in this group. The asthma guideline stated that the lung volume is dependent of ethnicity. The hypertension guideline did not state any ethnic-specific information.
Conclusion: The guidelines on type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension and asthma in adults only adopted a limited number of the ethnic differences contained in the scientific literature on which they were based. Possible explanations are that information was only included if there was a clear scientific basis, and that ethnic distinctions were found to be politically and socially undesirable. However, this lack of information might lead to ineffective or sub-optimal care for ethnic minorities.