Developing an evidence assessment framework and appraising the academic literature on migrant health in Malaysia: a scoping review

A.W. de Smalen*, Z.X. Chan, C.A. Lopes, M. Vanore, T. Loganathan, N.S. Pocock

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Background A large number of international migrants in Malaysia face challenges in obtaining good health, the extent of which is still relatively unknown. This study aims to map the existing academic literature on migrant health in Malaysia and to provide an overview of the topical coverage, quality and level of evidence of these scientific studies. Methods A scoping review was conducted using six databases, including Econlit, Embase, Global Health, Medline, PsycINFO and Social Policy and Practice. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they were conducted in Malaysia, peer-reviewed, focused on a health dimension according to the Bay Area Regional Health Inequities Initiative (BARHII) framework, and targeted the vulnerable international migrant population. Data were extracted by using the BARHII framework and a newly developed decision tree to identify the type of study design and corresponding level of evidence. Modified Joanna Briggs Institute checklists were used to assess study quality, and a multiple-correspondence analysis (MCA) was conducted to identify associations between different variables. Results 67 publications met the selection criteria and were included in the study. The majority (n=41) of studies included foreign workers. Over two-thirds (n=46) focused on disease and injury, and a similar number (n=46) had descriptive designs. The average quality of the papers was low, yet quality differed significantly among them. The MCA showed that high-quality studies were mostly qualitative designs that included refugees and focused on living conditions, while prevalence and analytical cross-sectional studies were mostly of low quality. Conclusion This study provides an overview of the scientific literature on migrant health in Malaysia published between 1965 and 2019. In general, the quality of these studies is low, and various health dimensions have not been thoroughly researched. Therefore, researchers should address these issues to improve the evidence base to support policy-makers with high-quality evidence for decision-making.
Original languageEnglish
Article number041379
Number of pages34
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • construction workers
  • food handlers
  • health services administration &amp
  • inequality
  • kuala-lumpur
  • management
  • manufacturing-industry
  • musculoskeletal pain
  • prevalence
  • public health
  • research methods
  • sabah
  • seroprevalence
  • statistics &amp
  • tuberculosis

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