Priority setting for health research: lessons from developing countries
AbstractResearch resources for addressing health problems of developing countries remain disproportionately low compared with the tremendous disease burdens borne by these countries. There is a need to focus these scarce resources on research that will optimize health benefits and lead to equity. This paper reviews processes and methods that have been used for setting research priorities. Past and current processes have focused on expert-driven research agenda, emphasizing scientific autonomy and global analyses. Methods for setting priorities have focused on the metrics of disease burdens, while less attention has been placed on who sets priorities and how choices are made. The paper proposes a strategy of priority setting, based on lessons learned from essential national health research (ENHR) approaches attempted in several developing countries. With equity in health and development as its goal, the proposed model is demand-driven, and involves multi-dimensional inputs and multiple stakeholders. Various steps of the process are discussed: getting participants involved; gathering evidence and information; determining criteria for priority setting; and implementation and evaluation. The paper concludes with a discussion of the gap between national research priorities and the research agenda set at regional and global levels, an issue that needs to be satisfactorily addressed in the future.