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Int J Evid Based Healthc. 2015 Sep;13(3):147-53. doi: 10.1097/XEB.0000000000000054.

Methodological guidance for systematic reviews of observational epidemiological studies reporting prevalence and cumulative incidence data.

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Faculty of Health Sciences, The Joanna Briggs Institute, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.



There currently does not exist guidance for authors aiming to undertake systematic reviews of observational epidemiological studies, such as those reporting prevalence and incidence information. These reviews are particularly useful to measure global disease burden and changes in disease over time. The aim of this article is to provide guidance for conducting these types of reviews.


A methodological working group of the Joanna Briggs Institute, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia, was formed to create guidance for conducting systematic reviews of studies reporting prevalence and cumulative incidence information. All methodological output of the group was subject to peer review and feedback by members of the international evidence synthesis community.


Systematic reviews of prevalence and incidence data should follow the same structured steps as systematic reviews of effectiveness. However, many of these steps need to be tailored for this type of evidence, particularly surrounding the stages of critical appraisal and synthesis.


Prevalence and incidence systematic review and meta-analysis is an emerging methodology in the field of evidence synthesis. These reviews can provide useful information for healthcare professionals and policymakers on the burden of disease, show changes and trends over time in disease, and inform geographical distributions of disease and conditions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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