CIDG launches Cochrane qualitative synthesis strategy

What is it like taking medicines for your whole life when you are HIV positive and live in countries of Africa? The READ-It team tackled this in a thematic synthesis of 59 qualitative studies in 2019. The experience opened their eyes to the potential for rigorous, high-quality evidence synthesis of such research for making services better that they have set up a programme of work in this area. “We aimed to understand the experience of living with HIV and take antiretroviral treatment in Africa to help health planners and staff think through how best to configure services and work with patients to improve adherence”, stated the lead author Ingrid Eshun-Wilson, a Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group Editor based at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This review was used as a basis for the MSF Welcome Service of differentiated care for patients struggling with antiretroviral adherence in South Africa.

With the success of this review, the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group has qualitative evidence synthesis as a major component of its new strategic plan. Part of the strategy is capacity development of the group, and we are delighted that a world leader in qualitative evidence synthesis, Professor Sandy Oliver, has accepted a role as an Editor with the Cochrane Infectious Diseases Group; along with Dr Anke Rohwer, an experienced researcher in this field. The team also include Lynn Hendricks, Melissa Taylor, Rebecca Thomas, Nancy Medley, and Karen Steingart.  Deirdre Walshe, the group’s Managing Editor, has set up the editorial systems and links with the peer review process and standards set by Cochrane in the last few months so the process is now established.

The group have been instrumental in Cochrane accepting qualitative evidence synthesis as standalone reviews; and have now a qualitative evidence synthesis reviews in mass drug administration for filariasis (protocol published), strategies to improve case finding in TB (protocol in editorial process), and cartridge diagnostics for TB (protocol in development). As these methods are quite new and expertise is quite limited, we are insisting on review teams working closely with us, and with authors experienced in these reviews as part of the team. The group is also conducting methodological research on how qualitative evidence synthesis reviews should be updated.

Professor Paul Garner, Coordinating Editor, recently noted “Personally, I think this is an exciting frontier in our area of research in infectious diseases. The synthesis sometimes generates new findings. We can see how this will impact by making programmes and services more sensitive to what people want and need”.

The CIDG editorial base is at LSTM and has been in operation since 1994. It consists of over 600 authors from 52 countries and is supported by UK aid from the UK Government for the benefit of low- and middle-income countries (project number 300342-104).