The development of a critical appraisal tool for use in systematic reviews addressing questions of prevalence

Int J Health Policy Manag. 2014 Aug 13;3(3):123-8. doi: 10.15171/ijhpm.2014.71. eCollection 2014 Aug.


Background: Recently there has been a significant increase in the number of systematic reviews addressing questions of prevalence. Key features of a systematic review include the creation of an a priori protocol, clear inclusion criteria, a structured and systematic search process, critical appraisal of studies, and a formal process of data extraction followed by methods to synthesize, or combine, this data. Currently there exists no standard method for conducting critical appraisal of studies in systematic reviews of prevalence data.

Methods: A working group was created to assess current critical appraisal tools for studies reporting prevalence data and develop a new tool for these studies in systematic reviews of prevalence. Following the development of this tool it was piloted amongst an experienced group of sixteen healthcare researchers.

Results: The results of the pilot found that this tool was a valid approach to assessing the methodological quality of studies reporting prevalence data to be included in systematic reviews. Participants found the tool acceptable and easy to use. Some comments were provided which helped refine the criteria.

Conclusion: The results of this pilot study found that this tool was well-accepted by users and further refinements have been made to the tool based on their feedback. We now put forward this tool for use by authors conducting prevalence systematic reviews.

Keywords: Critical Appraisal; Prevalence; Survey; Systematic Review.