GRADE equity guidelines 3: considering health equity in GRADE guideline development: rating the certainty of synthesized evidence

J Clin Epidemiol. 2017 Oct:90:76-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2017.01.015. Epub 2017 Apr 4.


Objectives: The aim of this paper is to describe a conceptual framework for how to consider health equity in the Grading Recommendations Assessment and Development Evidence (GRADE) guideline development process.

Study design and setting: Consensus-based guidance developed by the GRADE working group members and other methodologists.

Results: We developed consensus-based guidance to help address health equity when rating the certainty of synthesized evidence (i.e., quality of evidence). When health inequity is determined to be a concern by stakeholders, we propose five methods for explicitly assessing health equity: (1) include health equity as an outcome; (2) consider patient-important outcomes relevant to health equity; (3) assess differences in the relative effect size of the treatment; (4) assess differences in baseline risk and the differing impacts on absolute effects; and (5) assess indirectness of evidence to disadvantaged populations and/or settings.

Conclusion: The most important priority for research on health inequity and guidelines is to identify and document examples where health equity has been considered explicitly in guidelines. Although there is a weak scientific evidence base for assessing health equity, this should not discourage the explicit consideration of how guidelines and recommendations affect the most vulnerable members of society.

Keywords: Applicability; GRADE; Guidelines; Health; Indirectness; Meta-analysis; Subgroup analysis; Systematic review; equity.

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Practice
  • Health Equity*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Research Design
  • Review Literature as Topic*
  • Vulnerable Populations*