Health care prioritization in ageing societies: influence of age, education, health literacy and culture

Health Policy. 2011 May;100(2-3):219-33. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.08.015. Epub 2010 Sep 17.


Objectives: To examine how Chinese people in Hong Kong view health care prioritization and to compare the findings with those from a United Kingdom survey.

Methods: A cross-sectional opinion survey was conducted in Hong Kong and 1512 participants were interviewed.

Results: Data show that the highest rankings were accorded to "treatment for children" and "high technology services." Services for the elderly, whether in the community or in hospitals, and including end-of-life care, were ranked among the lowest. This view was also shared by healthcare professionals. Compared with the UK findings, there are stark contrasts in the low ranking of end-of-life care and the high ranking of high technology services among the HK population.

Conclusions: It is evident that most people would give priority to the young over the old in distributing a given amount of healthcare services. To meet the needs of ageing societies and to meet the needs of all users equitably, health care policy needs to acknowledge constraints and the needs for prioritization. Both the public and professionals should engage with policy makers in formulating a policy based on cost benefit considerations as well as overall societal view of prioritization that is not based on age alone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Culture*
  • Female
  • Health Literacy*
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Young Adult