Centre for International Health

Setting Equitable Priorities in Health and Health Care: From theory to practice

The project concerns how available resources for health can be allocated in an efficient and fair manner.

Main content

Funding: Brocher Foundation  
Principle investigator: Ole Frithjof Norheim; with Tessa tan Torres Edejer
Partners:  WHO; Dan Wikler, Harvard School of Public Health; Mira Johri, University of Montreal.

Setting priorities and allocating resources in health is complicated - a number of economic and ethical criteria need to be considered, yet the applications of these different criteria do not necessarily lead to the same allocation decisions.  While considerable thought and attention by medical ethicists, health economists and others has been brought to bear on the question of how best to allocate available resources for health in an efficient and fair manner, national / local decision-makers in most regions of the world remain largely unaware of this (principally academic). debate and continue to make decisions without recourse to a concise, comprehensible guide to the issues and concepts at hand, as well as the trade-offs that may need to be made between competing allocation criteria.

Major Focus Areas
Develop a practical guide to setting priorities in health which can be used as an operational tool by national and local decision-makers.  There is a major focus on the following three interrelated questions;

  • How much of society's finite resources should be allocated to health care and prevention?
  • How should the resources made available be allocated in order to generate the most health?
  • How should resources be allocated so that everyone has a reasonable and fair claim on them?




  • A  consensus on critical components / indicators for priority-setting in health established
  • Structure and contents of an operational guide to priority-setting in health, which is relevant to decision-makers while simultaneously well-grounded conceptually outlined
  • Research agenda on the political economy of priority-setting in health developed

Events organized:
Brocher symposium, 16 - 17 June 2011;
"Setting equitable priorities in health and health care"