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Health equity audits: a systematic review of the effectiveness.

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van Daalen, Kim Robin  ORCID logo
Davey, Fiona 
Norman, Claire 
Ford, John Alexander  ORCID logo


OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this systematic review is to explore whether health equity audits (HEAs) are effective in improving the equity of service provision and reducing health inequalities. DESIGN: Three databases (Ovid Medline, Embase, Web of Science) and grey literature (Opengrey, Google Scholar) were systematically searched for articles published after 2000, reporting on the effectiveness of HEA. Title and abstracts were screened according to an eligibility criteria to identify studies which included a full audit cycle (eg, initial equity analysis, service changes and review). Data were extracted from studies meeting the eligibility criteria after full text review and risk of bias assessed using the ROBINS-I tool. RESULTS: The search strategy identified 596 articles. Fifteen records were reviewed in full text and three records were included in final review. An additional HEA report was identified through contact with an author. Three different HEAs were included from one peer-reviewed journal article, two published reports and one unpublished report (n=4 records on n=3 HEAs). This included 102 851 participants and over 148 practices/pharmacies (information was not recorded for all records). One study reviewed health equity impacts of HEA implementation in key indicators for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Two HEAs explored Stop Smoking Services on programme access and equity. All reported some degree of reduction in health inequalities compared with prior HEA implementation. However, impact of HEA implementation compared with other concurrent programmes and initiatives was unclear. All included studies were judged to have moderate to serious risk of bias. CONCLUSIONS: There is an urgent need to identify effective interventions to address health inequalities. While HEAs are recommended, we only identified limited weak evidence to support their use. More evidence is needed to explore whether HEA implementation can reduce inequalities and which factors are influencing effectiveness. TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: The study was registered prior to its conduction in PROSPERO (CRD 42020218642).



clinical audit, epidemiology, public health, Coronary Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2, Health Equity, Humans, Pharmacies

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BMJ Open

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Embargo: ends 2021-11-10