2023 MeSH headings update

Each year, the National Library of Medicine updates the MeSH headings used to tag and index items added to the Medline or PubMed database. This is to update the terminology to keep up with changes in practice and also to edit any terms which have been found to be problematic in some way. This year we have examples of both.

Below i’ve listed the terms I think will be of interest to PubMed/Medline users from LSHTM. Remember, these are not retrospectively applied, they will only be added to any new papers. The new terms usually start being added in January. If you have saved searches in PubMed or Medline, it is good practice to update these every year to include new or edited MeSH terms or terminology.

As usual, thanks have to go to @tcshields@twitter.com who first let her followers know that the 2023 terms were released, then wrote a great twitter thread about them.

There are quite a few changes to relevant terms under the social sciences. Relevant to work that’s being done across LSHTM are

  • Antiracism
  • Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

There are terms covering socioeconomic disparities:

  • Socioeconomic disparitites in health
  • Resource-Limited Settings
  • Low socioeconomic status

More general public health terms include:

  • Collective efficacy
  • Group dynamics
  • Social group
  • Extended family
  • Family structure
  • Family support
  • Residential segregation
  • Psychological well-being
  • Suicide prevention
  • Access to primary care
  • Value-based health care
  • Working conditions
  • Tobacco control

There are a number of new terms in the fields of infectious diseases, their control and the human body’s response. These include:

  • Human papillomavirus viruses
  • Breakthrough infections
  • Post-Infectious Disorders
  • Post-Acute COVID-10 Syndrome
  • Tuberculosis, Extrapulmonary
  • Drug fever
  • T-Cell Exhaustion
  • Trained Immunity
  • Rapid diagnostic tests

For those interested in diet, food and nutrition, some new terms have been added.

  • Food, processed
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Elimination diets
  • FODMAP diet

Researchers interested in climate and environmental change may find the following useful:

  • Drought Resistance [in plants]
  • Ocean acidification

Those looking for methodological studies will be pleased to note there is now a term which differentiates between papers discussing methods involved in case reports, and actual case reports:

  • Case reports as topic

There are also a number of new terms to describe types of analysis

  • Information sources
  • Random forest
  • Secondary data analysis
  • Cost-Effectiveness Analysis
  • Document analysis
  • Evidence Gaps
  • Clinical Relevance
  • Information Motivation Behavioral Skills Model

There are some medical professions which are only now being added. Note that the speciality has been available – these terms will only be usedt to tag papers which talk about the profession or the professionals.

  • Gynecologists
  • Obstetricians
  • Paramedics
  • Traditional medicine practitioners

The largest change for 2023 are the updates made to terms describing groups of people native to different regions of the world. The previous terms had a number of problems. The NLM has done a lot of work with information professionals and others from these regions to try to rectify this. Again Tracy Shields (@tcshields@twitter.com) has produced a fabulous twitter thread detailing the work that’s gone on to update these, as well as discussing the terms.

I think these will help us in public health differentiate between, people living in specific countries and the wider diaspora. It will be interesting to see how these are applied in practice. The new terms are:

  • African people
  • Asian American Netive Hawaiiian and Pacific Islander
  • Australasian People
  • Caribbean People
  • Central African People
  • Central American People
  • Central Asian People
  • East African People
  • Eastern European People
  • European People
  • Middle Eastern and North Africans
  • Middle Eastern People
  • Navajo People
  • North African People
  • North American People
  • North Asian People
  • Oceanians
  • Pacific Island People
  • Pima People
  • Population groups, US
  • Scandinavians and Nordic People
  • South American People
  • Southeast Asian People
  • Southern African People
  • Sub-Saharan African People
  • West African People
  • West Asian People
  • White

As the NLM note in the Scope note for ‘White’, “Race and ethnicity terms are self-identified social construct and may include terms outdate and offensive in MeSH to assist users who are interested in retrieving comprehensive search results for studies such as in longitudinal studies.”

If any member of LSHTM has any questions or comments about the new MeSH terms and how they might have an impact on your searches, please contact the LSHTM Library staff on library@lshtm.ac.uk for help.