GHS 213 - Systematic Review for Global Health Decision-making

Rigorous systematic reviews are seen as the gold standard for assessing the effectiveness of public health interventions. Key systematic review principles and methods can also be applied to other important areas of public health (e.g., prevalence of diseases, qualitative evidence, diagnostic test accuracy). The goal of this course is to provide participants with a grounded theoretical understanding of all major aspects of conducting a high-quality systematic review. Students will develop systematic review protocols (detailed work-plans for systematic reviews), but will not be required to conduct the full systematic reviews (though they are welcome to do so outside the course).


By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Explain the need for systematic reviews and meta-analyses
  • Formulate a research question using the Population, Intervention, Comparator, Outcome (PICO) framework
  • Develop a rigorous systematic review protocol
  • Understand the steps for comprehensively searching the scientific literature
  • Assess the risk of bias in interventional studies (with a focus on randomized controlled trials)
  • Understand the basic methods of meta-analysis
  • Use the Review Manager (RevMan) software as a tool to organize the review and to perform meta-analysis
  • Understand factors contributing to heterogeneity among studies and explain how heterogeneity can affect interpretation of systematic review results
  • Understand the distinction between internal validity and external validity, and explain the limitations of applying the findings from a systematic review outside of its included studies
  • Perform rigorous critical appraisal of a systematic review
  • Describe key components of leading methodologies for assessing the quality of systematic review evidence
  • Know how to register systematic review protocols in international registries and understand why it is important to do so

Course directors

Teaching format

Lectures, hands-on practice, student presentations, group discussions

Course credit

2 units