Vélez CM, Aguilera B, Kapiriri L, Essue BM, Nouvet E, Sandman L, Williams I
Health Res Policy Syst 20 (1) 58 [2022-05-31; online 2022-05-31]
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are among those regions most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has strained health systems in the region. In this context of severe healthcare resource constraints, there is a need for systematic priority-setting to support decision-making which ensures the best use of resources while considering the needs of the most vulnerable groups. The aim of this paper was to provide a critical description and analysis of how health systems considered priority-setting in the COVID-19 response and preparedness plans of a sample of 14 LAC countries; and to identify the associated research gaps. A documentary analysis of COVID-19 preparedness and response plans was performed in a sample of 14 countries in the LAC region. We assessed the degree to which the documented priority-setting processes adhered to established quality indicators of effective priority-setting included in the Kapiriri and Martin framework. We conducted a descriptive analysis of the degree to which the reports addressed the quality parameters for each individual country, as well as a cross-country comparison to explore whether parameters varied according to independent variables. While all plans were led and supported by the national governments, most included only a limited number of quality indicators for effective priority-setting. There was no systematic pattern between the number of quality indicators and the country's health system and political contexts; however, the countries that had the least number of quality indicators tended to be economically disadvantaged. This study adds to the literature by providing the first descriptive analysis of the inclusion of priority-setting during a pandemic, using the case of COVID-19 response and preparedness plans in the LAC region. The analysis found that despite the strong evidence of political will and stakeholder participation, none of the plans presented a clear priority-setting process, or used a formal priority-setting framework, to define interventions, populations, geographical regions, healthcare setting or resources prioritized. There is need for case studies that analyse how priority-setting actually occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic and the degree to which the implementation reflected the plans and the parameters of effective priority-setting, as well as the impact of the prioritization processes on population health, with a focus on the most vulnerable groups.