Background: In the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR), more than 1.7 million deaths occur yearly from the four main types of non-communicable diseases (NCDs): cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. The research productivity and quality in the EMR is low with critical deficits in different areas.
Objectives: This study aims to identify, summarise and synthesise systematic reviews (SRs) and/or meta-analysis addressing NCDs and their risk factors in the EMR in order to critically appraise the research productivity and quality and to identify which associations are being investigated between risk factors and outcomes.
Methods: We searched Medline Ovid in April 2016, Cochrane Central in May 2016 and Epistemonikos in May 2016 to find the relevant SRs published between1996-2015. Screening and data abstraction were done independently and in duplicate before using AMSTAR for the quality assessment.
Results: We identified 2439 SRs and the final number included in the qualitative analysis is 105. The majority of the studies were conducted by one country, and Iran had the highest number of publications. The number of SRs in the EMR has been steadily increasing throughout the years, however, most of them (85%) were of low quality, and only recently has there been the emergence of a few middle- and high-quality SRs. SRs in which there was a collaboration with a non-EMR corresponding author tended to be of better quality. The research focus and gaps are clearly shown in the gap map where cardiovascular diseases were the most common addressed outcome (43%), smoking was the most common addressed risk factor (21%) and diabetes was highly addressed (27%).
Conclusions: Quality improvement of the SRs addressing NCDs in the EMR is essential for the development of better policies and practices. Additionally, the gaps identified should help guide future investigations in the EMR according to the burden of disease.