Criteria Used for Priority-Setting for Public Health Resource Allocation in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review

Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2019;35(6):474-483. doi: 10.1017/S0266462319000473. Epub 2019 Jul 16.


Objectives: This systematic review aimed to identify criteria being used for priority setting for resource allocation decisions in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Furthermore, the included studies were analyzed from a policy perspective to understand priority setting processes in these countries.

Methods: Searches were carried out in PubMed, Embase, Econlit, and Cochrane databases, supplemented with pre-identified Web sites and bibliographic searches of relevant papers. Quality appraisal of included studies was undertaken. The review protocol is registered in International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews PROSPERO CRD42017068371.

Results: Of 16,412 records screened by title and abstract, 112 papers were identified for full text screening and 44 studies were included in the final analysis. At an overall level, cost-effectiveness 52 percent (n = 22) and health benefits 45 percent (n = 19) were the most cited criteria used for priority setting for public health resource allocation. Inter-region (LMICs) and between various approaches (like health technology assessment, multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA), accountability for reasonableness (AFR) variations among criteria were also noted. Our review found that MCDA approach was more frequently used in upper middle-income countries and AFR in lower-income countries for priority setting in health. Policy makers were the most frequently consulted stakeholders in all regions.

Conclusions and recommendations: Priority-setting criteria for health resource allocation decisions in LMICs largely comprised of cost-effectiveness and health benefits criteria at overall level. Other criteria like legal and regulatory framework conducive for implementation, fairness/ethics, and political considerations were infrequently reported and should be considered.

Keywords: Criteria; Health policy; Priority setting; Resource allocation; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries*
  • Health Priorities*
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • Resource Allocation*