Access to information on medical research and health care issues relating to diverse population groups: a study of Embase, Medline and PsychINFO.

The increase in the number and variety of ethnic populations in the United States and the concerns about their health have lead to an expansion of demand for research on those populations in medicine and other fields such as public health and social welfare. Health policy makers, planners and service providers are seeking a better understanding of the characteristics of ethnic and racial groups in order to address needs. Health workers need to be sensitive to the ethnocultural barriers that confront different patients and to be aware of disease distributions in diverse populations. Studying a variety of ethnic and racial groups could establish the nature of differences in these disease distributions and their risk factors, and consequently lead to improved prevention and treatment modes. Research granting bodies have already recognized the need for better understanding in these areas and many steps have been taken to further this goal (Department of Health and Human Services, 1991). Parallel to this much needed research, we must examine the methods that facilitate access to the research literature. Research materials and findings are useless unless they can be accessed and properly disseminated. Current indexing procedures followed by the leading database producers do not adequately fulfill the needs of the research community concerning specific ethnic or racial groups. Similar inadequacies in indexing procedures are found in other Abstracting & Indexing Services. The main goal of the research presented in this paper is to investigate the methods of access (indexing and retrieval) to medical research on population groups in the three major health science databases: Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO.