Prioritizing Healthcare: Who Receives What, When and How Often?

Investing in healthcare is vital to human social, political and economic development, but how do we prioritize who receives what, when and how often? Priority setting in healthcare is a complex, arduous and often times expensive task for governments, practitioners and beneficiaries.

As the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are reaching their end in 2015, the focus is shifting to prioritizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are many lessons learned from the last 15 years of working towards achieving the eight MDGs, the shortfalls and the successes, that are being taken into account when formulating the post-2015 agenda for the SDGs. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development held in 2012, named the Rio+20, began the process of developing, “action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, limited in number, aspirational, global in nature, universally applicable to all countries while taking into account different national realities, capacities and levels of development and respecting national policies and priorities.” Well, this sounds great and all, but what does it really mean? How are the SDGs going to produce tangible results if the language of the framework is so wishy-washy?

This is where the Copenhagen Consensus Center comes into the picture. While the SDGs aim to be action-oriented, the Center takes a solutions-oriented approach, “In a world with limited budgets and attention spans, we need to find effective ways to do the most good for the most people”. As with healthcare, prioritizing the SDGs requires consensus on resource allocation, cost-benefit analysis, consideration of efficiency, effectiveness and equity of goods and services and the social, political and economic costs and consequences of implementation. The Rio+20 and the Center take an inclusive approach to prioritizing development issues, however, the Center utilizes evidence and economic analysis to rank international problems that need to be addressed. Understandably, the Copenhagen Consensus Center comes under fire from human rights critics who argue its data-driven approach fails to take into account the ethical aspects of those being most affected by the issues addressed.

However, given limited resources and time constraints, utilizing the Center’s approach for prioritizing exigent healthcare issues could address a greater number of issues and reach a larger portion of the population. The conclusion of the MDGs provides considerable evidence for prioritizing global health challenges in the short- and long-term and utilizing the Copenhagen Consensus Center’s evidence-based approach could prove useful for determining the most cost-effective and efficient global health agenda.


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