Objective: Australian research guidelines emphasise that high quality research into Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (henceforth Indigenous) health should be conducted in accordance with specific principles. These include: involvement of Indigenous people; making findings accessible; and ensuring that communities benefit from studies in which they participate. Nonetheless, these features are not measured by existing quality appraisal / risk of bias assessment tools that are designed for use in systematic reviews. We report here on the development and trial of a tool for use in systematic reviews of Indigenous health interventions.

Method: Our tool includes measures of compliance with Indigenous health guidelines as well as questions about study design that are common to systematic review tools. The tool was trialled in relation to 13 studies of Indigenous health interventions.

Results: The tool supported a comprehensive assessment of studies. We found strong consistency between reviewers’ evaluations of studies, with only two disagreements on our scales.

Conclusion: Tools used to measures of quality and risk of bias in studies of Indigenous health should assess for rigor in accordance with Indigenous health research principles. Our tool represents an attempt to develop a methodological approach that is acceptable within both non-Indigenous and Indigenous research traditions.

Implications: We hope that researchers will adapt the tool for use in their own reviews of studies concerning the health and wellbeing of Australian Indigenous peoples.

Related to: systematic review, Indigenous health, Indigenous methodologies, quality assessment, risk of bias