Technology-Based Interventions in Substance Use Treatment to Promote Health Equity Among People Who Identify as African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native: Protocol for a Scoping Review

JMIR Res Protoc. 2022 May 17;11(5):e34508. doi: 10.2196/34508.


Background: Technology-based interventions (TBIs; ie, web-based and mobile interventions) have the potential to promote health equity in substance use treatment (SUTx) for underrepresented groups (people who identify as African American/Black, Hispanic/Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native) by removing barriers and increasing access to culturally relevant effective treatments. However, technologies (emergent and more long-standing) may have unintended consequences that could perpetuate health care disparities among people who identify as a member of one of the underrepresented groups. Health care research, and SUTx research specifically, is infrequently conducted with people who identify with these groups as the main focus. Therefore, an improved understanding of the literature at the intersection of SUTx, TBIs, and underrepresented groups is warranted to avoid exacerbating inequities and to promote health equity.

Objective: This study aims to explore peer-reviewed literature (January 2000-March 2021) that includes people who identify as a member of one of the underrepresented groups in SUTx research using TBIs. We further seek to explore whether this subset of research is race/ethnicity conscious (does the research consider members of underrepresented groups beyond their inclusion as study participants in the introduction, methods, results, or discussion).

Methods: Five electronic databases (MEDLINE, Scopus, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, and PsycInfo) were searched to identify SUTx research using TBIs, and studies were screened for eligibility at the title/abstract and full-text levels. Studies were included if their sample comprised of people who identify as a member of one of the underrepresented groups at 50% or more when combined.

Results: Title/abstract and full-text reviews were completed in 2021. These efforts netted a sample of 185 studies that appear to meet inclusionary criteria. Due to the uniqueness of tobacco relative to other substances in the SUTx space, as well as the large number of studies netted, we plan to separately publish a scoping review on tobacco-focused studies that meet all other criteria. Filtering for tobacco-focused studies (n=31) netted a final full-text sample for a main scoping review of 154 studies. The tobacco-focused scoping review manuscript is expected to be submitted for peer review in Spring 2022. The main scoping review data extraction and data validation to confirm the accuracy and consistency of data extraction across records was completed in March 2022. We expect to publish the main scoping review findings by the end of 2022.

Conclusions: Research is needed to increase our understanding of the range and nature of TBIs being used in SUTx research studies with members of underrepresented groups. The planned scoping review will highlight research at this intersection to promote health equity.

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/34508.

Keywords: health disparities; scoping review; social determinants of health; substance use; technology-based interventions; treatment; underrepresented.