Occup Environ Med 69:522-524 doi:10.1136/oemed-2011-100180
  • Short report

Hidden effectiveness? Results of hand-searching Italian language journals for occupational health interventions

Open Access
  1. Francesco S Violante1
  1. 1Section of Occupational Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Geriatrics and Nephrology, University of Bologna, Italy
  2. 2Tuscany Regional Centre for Occupational Injuries and Diseases (CeRIMP), Florence, Italy
  3. 3Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Cochrane Occupational Safety and Health Review Group, Kuopio, Finland
  4. 4Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine, Section of Occupational Medicine, University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
  5. 5Department of Prevention, Occupational Health Unit, Azienda USL di Ravenna, Ravenna Local Health Authority, Ravenna, Italy
  6. 6INAIL (Italian Workers' Compensation Authority), Area Ricerca, Dipartimento Processi Organizzativi, Rome, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Francesca Zanardi, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Unità Operativa di Medicina del Lavoro, Policlinico S.Orsola-Malpighi, Via Pelagio Palagi 9, 40138 Bologna, Italy; francesca.zanardi3{at}
  1. Contributors SM drafted the article. AF, RMTC, SC, GM and FZ made substantial contributions to acquisition, analysis and interpretation of data and drafting the article. AB made substantial contributions to the conception, design, analysis and interpretation of data. JHR, DP, MF, GC and FSV revised the article critically for important intellectual content. FSV approved the final version to be published.

  • Accepted 10 January 2012
  • Published Online First 23 March 2012


Objective To compare the yield of hand-searching with optimised electronic search strategies in retrieving occupational health (OH) intervention studies published in a language other than English.

Methods The authors systematically hand-searched and screened reports of OH intervention studies published in Italian in peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1990 and 2008. The authors evaluated how many of them met the Cochrane Occupational Safety and Health Review Groups (OSHRG) definition of being an OH intervention study and how many potentially relevant studies retrieved by hand-searching would not be found by PubMed alone using the OSHRG's most specific and most sensitive search strings.

Results Hand-searching retrieved 25 articles (reporting 27 studies), including nine not indexed in MEDLINE. Most studies (81%, 22/27) had a before–after design and only one was a randomised trial. The OSHRG's most sensitive search string retrieved all 16 articles published in the Italian language journals that were indexed in MEDLINE, while the most specific search strategy retrieved nine articles (56%, 9/16). The most specific search string showed a lower ‘number needed to read’ value than the most sensitive one (60 vs 132).

Conclusions These findings suggest that a sensitive electronic search strategy may be able to find most of the OH interventions published in languages other than English that are indexed in MEDLINE. Hand-searching of important national journals not indexed in MEDLINE should be considered when conducting particularly in-depth research.


  • Funding The study was supported by INAIL (Istituto Nazionale Assicurazione contro gli infortuni sul Lavoro) Direzione Regionale Emilia-Romagna, Bologna, Italy; Regione Emilia-Romagna (Emilia-Romagna Regional Administration), Bologna, Italy; and the University of Bologna.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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