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BMJ Support Palliat Care. 2018 Mar;8(1):7-18. doi: 10.1136/bmjspcare-2015-001008. Epub 2016 Aug 2.

International palliative care research in the context of global development: a systematic mapping review.

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Department of Public Health, University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR), Sheffield, UK.
University of Sheffield, School of Nursing, Sheffield, UK.



An increasing amount of health policy is formulated at global level. At this global level, palliative care has attracted support primarily from normative institutions (WHO), not funding agencies. To attract greater global attention from policymakers, it has been argued that an international approach to research is required. However, the extent to which an international approach is being undertaken is unknown.


To systematically identify and thematically synthesise all international palliative care research, defined as research involving two or more countries, or focused on the global level.


Five bibliographic databases (CINAHL, Cochrane Library, ASSIA, Web of Knowledge, Psychinfo) were searched for journal articles relevant to international and global palliative care and end-of-life care. Data were extracted using a piloted extraction form and findings were synthesised.


184 studies were included, published across 75 different academic journals. Research emanates from and focuses on all world regions and there is increasing focus on the global level. Thematically, there is a high focus on Evaluation (n=53) and views of Stakeholders (n=38). The review revealed a predominantly observational research approach and few interventional studies were identified.


International palliative care research is a relatively new, but growing field. However, many gaps in the evidence base remain and palliative care research continues to take place outside broader discourses of international development. The relative absence of interventional research demonstrating the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of palliative care risks limiting the tools with which advocates can engage with international policymakers on this topic.


Global Palliative Care; International Development; International Research; Systematic Mapping Review

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