Approaches to prioritising primary health research: a scoping review Journal Articles uri icon

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  • ObjectiveTo systematically identify and describe approaches to prioritise primary research topics in any health-related area.MethodsWe searched Medline and CINAHL databases and Google Scholar. Teams of two reviewers screened studies and extracted data in duplicate and independently. We synthesised the information across the included approaches by developing common categorisation of relevant concepts.ResultsOf 44 392 citations, 30 articles reporting on 25 approaches were included, addressing the following fields: health in general (n=9), clinical (n=10), health policy and systems (n=10), public health (n=6) and health service research (n=5) (10 addressed more than 1 field). The approaches proposed the following aspects to be addressed in the prioritisation process: situation analysis/ environmental scan, methods for generation of initial list of topics, use of prioritisation criteria, stakeholder engagement, ranking process/technique, dissemination and implementation, revision and appeal mechanism, and monitoring and evaluation. Twenty-two approaches proposed involving stakeholders in the priority setting process. The most commonly proposed stakeholder category was ‘researchers/academia’ (n=17, 77%) followed by ‘healthcare providers’ (n=16, 73%). Fifteen of the approaches proposed a list of criteria for determining research priorities. We developed a common framework of 28 prioritisation criteria clustered into nine domains. The criterion most frequently mentioned by the identified approaches was ‘health burden’ (n=12, 80%), followed by ‘availability of resources’ (n=11, 73%).ConclusionWe identified and described 25 prioritisation approaches for primary research topics in any health-related area. Findings highlight the need for greater participation of potential users (eg, policy-makers and the general public) and incorporation of equity as part of the prioritisation process. Findings can guide the work of researchers, policy-makers and funders seeking to conduct or fund primary health research. More importantly, the findings should be used to enhance a more coordinated approach to prioritising health research to inform decision making at all levels.


  • Fadlallah, Racha
  • Daher, Najla
  • El-Harakeh, Amena
  • Hammam, Rima
  • Brax, Hneine
  • Bou Karroum, Lama
  • Lopes, Luciane Cruz
  • Arnous, Ghida
  • Kassamany, Inas
  • Baltayan, Stephanie
  • Harb, Aya
  • Lotfi, Tamara
  • El-Jardali, Fadi
  • Akl, Elie

publication date

  • May 2022