Measuring social exclusion in healthcare settings: A scoping review

Patrick O'Donnell*, Diarmuid O'Donovan, Khalifa Elmusharaf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Social exclusion is a concept that has been widely debated in recent years; a particular focus of the discussion has been its significance in relation to health. The meanings of the phrase "social exclusion", and the closely associated term "social inclusion", are contested in the literature. Both of these concepts are important in relation to health and the area of primary healthcare in particular. Thus, several tools for the measurement of social exclusion or social inclusion status in health care settings have been developed. Methods: A scoping review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature was conducted to examine tools developed since 2000 that measure social exclusion or social inclusion. We focused on those measurement tools developed for use with individual patients in healthcare settings. Efforts were made to obtain a copy of each of the original tools, and all relevant background literature. All tools retrieved were compared in tables, and the specific domains that were included in each measure were tabulated. Results: Twenty-two measurement tools were included in the final scoping review. The majority of these had been specifically developed for the measurement of social inclusion or social exclusion, but a small number were created for the measurement of other closely aligned concepts. The majority of the tools included were constructed for engaging with patients in mental health settings. The tools varied greatly in their design, the scoring systems and the ways they were administered. The domains covered by these tools varied widely and some of the tools were quite narrow in the areas of focus. A review of the definitions of both social inclusion and social exclusion also revealed the variations among the explanations of these complex concepts. Conclusions: There are several definitions of both social inclusion and social exclusion in use and they differ greatly in scope. While there are many tools that have been developed for measuring these concepts in healthcare settings, these do not have a primary healthcare focus. There is a need for the development of a tool for measuring social inclusion or social exclusion in primary healthcare settings.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0732
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
No external funding was applied for or used in the conduct of this research. Employment of POD as a researcher is funded by the University of Limerick Graduate Entry Medical School and the Health Service Executive Social Inclusion Division.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Equity
  • Health inequality
  • Instrument
  • Measure
  • Poverty
  • Social exclusion
  • Social inclusion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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