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Towards deep inclusion for equity-oriented health research priority-setting: A working model

Future Health Systems

Pratt B, Merritt M and Hyder AA (2016) Towards deep inclusion for equity-oriented health research priority-setting: A working model, Social Science and Medicine, vol 151, pp 215-224, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.01.018


Growing consensus that health research funders should align their investments with national research priorities presupposes that such national priorities exist and are just. Arguably, justice requires national health research priority-setting to promote health equity. Such a position is consistent with recommendations made by the World Health Organization and at global ministerial summits that health research should serve to reduce health inequalities between and within countries. Thus far, no specific requirements for equity-oriented research priority-setting have been described to guide policymakers. As a step towards the explication and defence of such requirements, we propose that deep inclusion is a key procedural component of equity-oriented research priority-setting. We offer a model of deep inclusion that was developed by applying concepts from work on deliberative democracy and development ethics. This model consists of three dimensions—breadth, qualitative equality, and high-quality non-elite participation. Deep inclusion is captured not only by who is invited to join a decision-making process but also by how they are involved and by when non-elite stakeholders are involved. To clarify and illustrate the proposed dimensions, we use the sustained example of health systems research. We conclude by reviewing practical challenges to achieving deep inclusion. Despite the existence of barriers to implementation, our model can help policymakers and other stakeholders design more inclusive national health research priority-setting processes and assess these processes' depth of inclusion.