Earlier this year, the National Clinical Evidence Taskforce (NCET) committed to better addressing issues of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) within the COVID-19 guidelines, starting by reporting on the characteristics of the populations in included research relevant to EDI.
‘The importance of recognising and considering EDI in all aspects of the development of our guidelines can’t be overstated,’ explains NCET Evidence Officer Jessie Hewitt. ‘However when it comes to research studies, we know that much of the EDI information we really need is not reported. So to get a better understanding of the current EDI landscape for COVID-19 research, we recently analysed 115 studies on 12 different drug therapies. Our findings were clear – we identified significant gaps in the reporting of EDI characteristics across research studies.’
‘This work is ongoing, and we are now developing a paper that sets out our findings in detail and offers new practice methods to redress some of the key issues we identified and improve EDI consideration in the guidelines overall. To do so, we have established criteria of essential characteristics to consider, in collaboration with Associate Professor Nada Hamad, including age, ethnicity, gender, disability, migrant status, income, education, employment, power, geographical location and social support. It is important that these characteristics are included in studies, given they are crucial to assessing the risk of severe illness, determining the applicability of recommendations for treatment, and ensuring access to health systems and treatments for all people.’
While research papers often don’t report on EDI information, NCET continually seeks to support equity, diversity and inclusion in other ways such as diverse membership and clinical and consumer panel representation. We recently published an update to our COVID-19 guideline to include our equity, diversity and inclusion statement in our technical report.
‘We know there is much work to be done, particularly as there is little evidence of recent progress on this front. Given that the papers we include in this study are less than 3 years old (due to COVID being novel) and that equity has been a clear issue throughout the pandemic, the research community clearly needs to be doing much more. To this end, we hope our upcoming paper highlights the crucial need for inclusion of EDI characteristics in research studies, and encourages other researchers to think about and evaluate the methods in place for future studies.’