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ObjectiveAnalysis of participatory approaches to developing health interventions for migrants and how approaches embody core participatory principles of inclusivity and democracy.DesignA systematic review of original articles. Electronic searches within the databases MEDLINE, Embase, Global Health and PsychINFO (from inception—November 2020).Eligibility criteria for study selectionOriginal peer-reviewed articles reporting research to develop and implement a health intervention for migrants, incorporating participatory approaches. We defined migrants as foreign-born individuals. Only articles reporting the full research cycle (inception, design, implementation, analysis, evaluation, dissemination) were included.Data extractionWe extracted information related to who was involved in research (migrants or other non-academic stakeholders), the research stage at which they were involved (inception, design, implementation, analysis, evaluation, dissemination), the method of their involvement and how this aligned with the core principles of participatory research—categorising studies as exhibiting active or pseudo (including proxy and indirect) participation.Results1793 publications were screened, of which 28 were included in our analysis. We found substantial variation in the application of participatory approaches in designing health interventions targeting migrants: across 168 individual research stages analysed across the 28 studies, we recorded 46 instances of active participation of migrants, 30 instances of proxy participation and 24 instances of indirect participation. All studies involved non-academic stakeholders in at least one stage of the research, only two studies exhibited evidence of active participation of migrants across all research stages. Evidence is limited due to the variability of terms and approaches used.ConclusionsImportant shortfalls in the meaningful inclusion of migrants in developing health interventions exist, suggesting a more rigorous and standardised approach is warranted to better define and deliver participatory research and improve quality.RegistrationThis review followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis guidelines and is registered on the Open Science Framework (

Original publication





BMJ Open



Publication Date





e053678 - e053678