Objective: To assess and summarize empirical studies on priority-setting in developing countries.
Methods: Literature review of empirical studies on priority-setting of health interventions in developing countries in Medline and EMBASE (Ovid) databases.
Results: Eighteen studies were identified and classified according to their characteristics and methodological approaches. All studies were published after 1999, mostly between 2006 and 2008. Study objectives and methodologies varied considerably. Most studies identified sets of relevant criteria for priority-setting (17/18) and involved different stakeholders as respondents (11/18). Studies used qualitative (8/15) or quantitative (3/15) techniques, or combinations of these (4/15) to elicit preferences from respondents. In a few studies, respondents deliberated on results (3/18). A minority of studies (7/18) resulted in a rank ordering of interventions.
Conclusions: This review has revealed an increase in the number of empirical studies on priority-setting in developing countries in the past decade. Methods for explicit priority-setting are developing, being reported and are verifiable and replicable and can potentially lead to solutions for ad hoc policy-making in health care in many developing countries.