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INTRODUCTION: Academic health centres (AHCs) are complex organisations often defined by their 'tripartite' mission: to achieve high standards of clinical care, undertake clinical and laboratory research and educate health professionals. In the last decade, AHCs have moved away from what was a dominant focus on high impact (clinical) interventions for individuals, towards a more population-oriented paradigm requiring networked institutions and responsiveness to a range of issues including distribution of health outcomes and health determinants. Reflective of this paradigm shift is a growing interest in the role of AHCs in addressing health disparities and improving health system equity. This protocol outlines a systematic review that seeks to synthesise and critically appraise the current state of evidence on the role of AHCs in contributing to equitable health systems locally and globally. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: Electronic searches will be conducted on a pilot list of bibliographic databases, including Google Scholar, Scopus, MEDLINE, PsycInfo, CINAHL, ERIC, ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, Cochrane Library, Evidence Based Medicine Reviews, Campbell Library and A+ Education, from 1 January 2000 to 31 December 2016. Apart from studies reporting clinical interventions or trials, all types of published peer-reviewed and grey literature will be included in the review. The single screening method will be employed in selecting studies, with two additional reviewers consulted where allocation is unclear. Quality and relevance appraisal utilising Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tools will follow data extraction to a preprepared template. Thematic synthesis will be undertaken to develop descriptive themes and inform analysis. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: As the review is focused on the analysis of secondary data, it does not require ethics approval. The results of the study will be disseminated through articles in peer-reviewed journals and trade publications as well as presentations at relevant national and international conferences. Results will be further disseminated through networks and associations of AHCs. PROTOCOL REGISTRATION: International Prospective Register for Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO) number CRD42016051802.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Open

Publication Date





Academic health centre, health equity, health policy, health systems, Academic Medical Centers, Health Equity, Health Personnel, Humans, Models, Organizational, Research Design, Systematic Reviews as Topic