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Systematic review of COVID-19 study ethnic representation

A systematic review to assess ethnic representation in UK COVID-19 consented observational studies, compared to the general population

Why the research is needed

COVID-19 research studies were important in helping us understand the disease. Results from these studies have been used to inform treatment decisions and policies that affect almost everyone. However, it is likely that people from ethnic minority groups were not well represented in these studies. So the results may not be relevant or appropriate in these groups and they could be receiving poorer quality health care.

What is already known about the subject

The people who take part in medical research are more likely to be younger, richer, healthier, and less ethnically diverse than the general population.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on people from ethnic minority groups.

A recent report has indicated that the ethnic representation of some COVID-19 research was below the UK population average.

How patients and the public are involved

We have establish a patient and public group of 8 contributors with diverse ethnic backgrounds. We met to discuss the study and contributors gave their support for the projects and its aims. We plan to hold another virtual meeting with contributors to feedback on the review results and plan how to share our findings with others.

What we will do

We will search the published COVID-19 research studies. We will focus on studies that asked participant consent but did not intervene (observational studies and not randomised trials). We will collect reported age, sex, ethnic groups, and regional information from the studies and compare these to the UK averages to assess how well they match.

What the benefits will be

The study will help us understand how representative COVID-19 health research was and will highlight the problem alongside key areas to improve representation in future research.

When the findings will be available

Findings will be available early 2024, with planned dissemination at conferences, to the patient group, and via a published journal article.

How we are planning for implementation

Findings will be reported to policy-makers as evidence of ethnic representation of COVID-19 healthcare research. Highlighting the problem will support calls to action and enable us to take steps to improve the representativeness of healthcare research in the UK. Study results will be submitted for publication in an open-access peer-reviewed journal.


Dr Lucy Teece,