Authors response to #PHTwitJC 19: ‘New Roads and Human Health’

Details of the paper, discussion points, transcript and summary can be found in the archive (#PHTwitJC 19).
We invited the authors to respond to our discussion, and I received the following response from Matt Egan!

“I thought this was an interesting discussion – I watched it at the time but decided not to intervene just in case that could have altered the way people expressed their opinions.

I generally agree with the comments in the summary. If only we’d put this on twitter before submission!

I’m still quite pleased with the review but I definitely see it as an early effort – done at a time when not many people had attempted systematic reviews of wider social interventions. The guidance on reporting was less detailed and we were having to find our feet in terms of methods and presentation. I also notice we didn’t use a supplemental document to put in some of the extra information that, these days, we would be expected to include (I can’t remember whether that was because the facility was not available to us at that time, or maybe it just didn’t occur to me).

I personally don’t mind reviews being broad – eg. in terms of included methodologies and outcomes – providing the review is focusing on an issue that has not been particularly well researched. It means the review can have a useful scoping function as well as a hypothesis testing function. It also helps avoid conclusions that claim the reviewers found no evidence.

As some of the tweeters point out, the review did not pick up on the global arguments against new roads – e.g. more roads may encourage greater reliance on cars and greater harm to the global environment. Our inclusion criteria focused on studies that had both a new road and a measured health outcome – and this, I think, steered the review towards more localised impacts. So I definitely see our review as only one part of the jigsaw, and not necessarily the most important piece. If damage to the global environment is the biggest threat to future public health, than there’s obviously a bigger question about roads that needs answering and addressing.

Thanks everyone for taking your time to think and tweet about this article.

Best, Matt Egan”

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