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How is ethnicity reported, described, and analysed in health research in the UK? A bibliographical review and focus group discussions with young refugees

Lam, J; Aldridge, R; Blackburn, R; Harron, K; (2023) How is ethnicity reported, described, and analysed in health research in the UK? A bibliographical review and focus group discussions with young refugees. BMC Public Health , 23 , Article 2025. 10.1186/s12889-023-16947-3. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: The ethnicity data gap pertains to 3 major challenges to address ethnic health inequality: 1) Under-representation of ethnic minorities in research; 2) Poor data quality on ethnicity; 3) Ethnicity data not being meaningfully analysed. These challenges are especially relevant for research involving under-served migrant populations in the UK. We aimed to review how ethnicity is captured, reported, analysed and theorised within policy-relevant research on ethnic health inequities. Methods: We reviewed a selection of the 1% most highly cited population health papers that reported UK data on ethnicity, and extracted how ethnicity was recorded and analysed in relation to health outcomes. We focused on how ethnicity was obtained (i.e. self reported or not), how ethnic groups were categorised, whether justification was provided for any categorisation, and how ethnicity was theorised to be related to health. We held three 1-h-long guided focus groups with 10 young people from Nigeria, Turkistan, Syria, Yemen and Iran. This engagement helped us shape and interpret our findings, and reflect on. 1) How should ethnicity be asked inclusively, and better recorded? 2) Does self-defined ethnicity change over time or context? If so, why? Results: Of the 44 included papers, most (19; 43%) used self-reported ethnicity, categorised in a variety of ways. Of the 27 papers that aggregated ethnicity, 13 (48%) provided justification. Only 8 of 33 papers explicitly theorised how ethnicity related to health. The focus groups agreed that 1) Ethnicity should not be prescribed by others; individuals could be asked to describe their ethnicity in free-text which researchers could synthesise to extract relevant dimensions of ethnicity for their research; 2) Ethnicity changes over time and context according to personal experience, social pressure, and nationality change; 3) Migrants and non-migrants’ lived experience of ethnicity is not fully inter-changeable, even if they share the same ethnic category. Conclusions: Ethnicity is a multi-dimensional construct, but this is not currently reflected in UK health research studies, where ethnicity is often aggregated and analysed without justification. Researchers should communicate clearly how ethnicity is operationalised for their study, with appropriate justification for clustering and analysis that is meaningfully theorised. We can only start to tackle ethnic health inequity by treating ethnicity as rigorously as any other variables in our research.

Type: Article
Title: How is ethnicity reported, described, and analysed in health research in the UK? A bibliographical review and focus group discussions with young refugees
Location: England
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-023-16947-3
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-16947-3
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.
Keywords: Administrative data, Data linkage, Ethnicity, Migrants, Racism, Humans, Adolescent, Ethnicity, Focus Groups, Refugees, Health Status Disparities, United Kingdom
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute of Health Informatics
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > UCL GOS Institute of Child Health > Population, Policy and Practice Dept
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10180209
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