Sexually Transmitted Infections Group: priority setting in a low/middle income country

Sexually Transmitted Infections Group: priority setting in a low/middle income country

This is the third in a series of Cochrane Blog posts about prioritization work by Cochrane Review Groups. You can read more about the project and the full series of blog post  on the project page.

The Cochrane Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Group moved to Bogota, Colombia in 2012, where it is now part of the School of Medicine at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Starting over as ‘new’ group, the editorial team wanted to look at the protocols and reviews they had inherited. In the course of refreshing their portfolio of titles, they wanted to develop closer ties to stakeholders and to focus on the questions that are a priority for people living in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

For this exercise the STI Group adapted the Health Technology Assessment (HTA) prioritization method. As a first step, they made an evidence mapping of the trial reports on the STI Group’s Specialised Register in order to identify potential questions and evidence gaps. Then they created a database of approximately 30 STI experts or organizations. The groups/individuals (mostly clinicians) in this database came from high-income countries as well as LMICs. The second step was to launch an online survey, in which each organization or individual was asked to submit their top four STI questions. This generated a final list of 15 questions that were mapped to the STI Group’s review portfolio. This exercise allowed the group to identify which important titles were missing and confirm which of their existing titles where of the highest priority. They have produced a list of four top priority reviews and three top priority protocols that they will aim to publish in 2016/17.

Overall, the process took approximately a year, although it isn’t something the editorial team thinks of as a completed project. Stakeholder needs change, so they are planning to repeat the exercise every two years. This year they hope to write up the evidence mapping process, setting out what worked well for them and what they would like to change next time. They also intend to run a priority setting workshop at the STI & HIV World Congress in Brazil in July 2017, which will give them the opportunity to engage key stakeholders and work through issues and questions face-to-face.

As the only Cochrane Group based in a LMIC, dealing with a range of diseases that have such a devastating impact in LMICs, the team is keenly aware of the need to produce reviews that benefit people in other countries throughout South America, Africa, and Asia, as well as in Brazil. Coming from a setting where resources are limited, they are also acutely aware that an ongoing commitment to prioritization work has real finance and human resource implications. The production of high quality, high-priority systematic reviews requires dedicated teams of authors who have the appropriate skills and are adequately supported. For that reason, the Group has worked to set realistic and achievable goals in terms of the number of high-priority reviews they can produce. They are also actively investigating ways of funding prioritization in the future – both the priority setting work and the production of the reviews themselves.

For any questions or comments about this blog series or if you’d like to tell us about Cochrane group prioritization work please contact Ruth Foxlee at the Cochrane Editorial Unit –

Ruth Foxlee - Information Specialist, Cochrane Editorial Unit
Lydia Wilson – Intern, Cochrane Editorial Unit


December 1, 2016

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