Use of Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis in Environmental Health Epidemiology: a Systematic Review and Comparison with Guidelines

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Abstract

Systematic review (SR) and meta-analysis (MA) have potential to contribute substantially to environmental health (EH) risk assessment and policy-making, provided study questions are clear and methods sound. We undertook a systematic review of the published epidemiological literature for studies using both SR and MA examining associations between chronic low-dose chemical exposures and adverse health outcomes in general populations and compared actual methods and reporting with a checklist based on available published guidelines. We identified 48 EH SRMAs meeting these criteria. Associations were mainly positive and statistically significant, often involving large populations. A majority of studies followed most general SRMA guidance, although we identified weaknesses in problem formulation, study search, selection and data extraction, and integrating policy implications. Fewer studies followed EH-specific SRMA recommendations, particularly regarding exposure heterogeneity and other risks of bias. Development and adoption of EH-specific SRMA guidelines would contribute to strengthening these tools for public health decision-making.

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Sheehan, M. C., & Lam, J. (2015, September 1). Use of Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis in Environmental Health Epidemiology: a Systematic Review and Comparison with Guidelines. Current Environmental Health Reports. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40572-015-0062-z

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