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Eur J Public Health. 2016 Dec;26(6):984-991. doi: 10.1093/eurpub/ckw068. Epub 2016 Jun 3.

Inclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities in European birth cohort studies-a scoping review.

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Department of Epidemiology and International Public Health, School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany;
Department of Epidemiology and International Public Health, School of Public Health, Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany.
Department of Social Medicine, Academic Medical Centre, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Department of Public Health, Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, Senftenberg, Germany.



Migrant and ethnic minority groups constitute substantial parts of European populations. They frequently experience health disadvantages relative to the respective majority populations. Birth cohort studies can help to disentangle social and biological factors producing these health inequalities over the life course. We investigated whether birth cohorts in European countries (i) assess migration history and ethnicity in the study design; and (ii) use this information in data analyses.


A scoping review was performed in which European birth cohort studies were identified using dedicated web-based registries, MEDLINE and EMBASE. Two reviewers systematically assessed all identified birth cohorts and selected those fulfilling defined inclusion criteria (e.g. enrolment after 1980). Publications and websites were screened for information on the inclusion of migrants and ethnic minorities. To obtain more detailed information, researchers of enrolled birth cohorts were contacted individually.


Eighty-eight birth cohorts were identified in 20 European countries, with more than 486 250 children enrolled in total. Sixty-two studies (70.5%) reported collecting data about migration history or ethnic background. Twenty-three studies (26%) used information on migration history or ethnicity for data analyses or plan to do so in future.


The majority of European birth cohorts assessed participants' migration history or ethnic background; however, this information was seldom used for comparative analyses in trying to disentangle reasons for health inequalities. Also, heterogeneous indicators were used. Better use of data already available, as well as harmonization of data collection on migration history and ethnicity, could yield interesting insights into the production of health inequalities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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