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Priority setting for new systematic reviews: processes and lessons learned in three regions in Africa
  1. Emmanuel E Effa1,
  2. Olabisi Oduwole2,
  3. Anel Schoonees3,
  4. Ameer Hohlfeld4,
  5. Solange Durao5,
  6. Tamara Kredo5,
  7. Lawrence Mbuagbaw6,
  8. Martin Meremikwu7,
  9. Pierre Ongolo-Zogo8,
  10. Charles Wiysonge5,
  11. Taryn Young9
  1. 1Internal Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria
  2. 2Cochrane Nigeria, Calabar Institute of Tropical Disease Research and Prevention, University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, Calabar, Nigeria
  3. 3Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Cape Town, South Africa
  4. 4Cochrane South Africa, Medical Research Council of South Africa, Tygerberg, South Africa
  5. 5Cochrane South Africa, South African Medical Research Council, Tygerberg, South Africa
  6. 6Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
  7. 7Paediatrics, University of Calabar, Calabar, Nigeria
  8. 8Centre for Development of Best Practices in Health, Central Hospital of Yaounde, Yaounde, Cameroon
  9. 9Centre for Evidence-based Health Care, Division Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Global Health, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emmanuel E Effa; emma.effa{at}


Priority setting to identify topical and context relevant questions for systematic reviews involves an explicit, iterative and inclusive process. In resource-constrained settings of low-income and middle-income countries, priority setting for health related research activities ensures efficient use of resources. In this paper, we critically reflect on the approaches and specific processes adopted across three regions of Africa, present some of the outcomes and share the lessons learnt while carrying out these activities. Priority setting for new systematic reviews was conducted between 2016 and 2018 across three regions in Africa. Different approaches were used: Multimodal approach (Central Africa), Modified Delphi approach (West Africa) and Multilevel stakeholder discussion (Southern-Eastern Africa). Several questions that can feed into systematic reviews have emerged from these activities. We have learnt that collaborative subregional efforts using an integrative approach can effectively lead to the identification of region specific priorities. Systematic review workshops including discussion about the role and value of reviews to inform policy and research agendas were a useful part of the engagements. This may also enable relevant stakeholders to contribute towards the priority setting process in meaningful ways. However, certain shared challenges were identified, including that emerging priorities may be overlooked due to differences in burden of disease data and differences in language can hinder effective participation by stakeholders. We found that face-to-face contact is crucial for success and follow-up engagement with stakeholders is critical in driving acceptance of the findings and planning future progress.

  • priority setting
  • cochrane africa
  • systematic reviews
  • hubs
  • lessons

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  • Handling editor Soumyadeep Bhaumik

  • Presented at Aspects of this work have been presented at the Global Evidence Summit, Cape Town in September 2017 and at the 25th Cochrane Colloquium, Edinburgh in September 2018.

  • Contributors Conceptualisation: CAN Steering Group—TK, SD, AH, MM, EEE, LM, PO-Z, CW, TY. Methodology: CAN Steering Group—TK, SD, AH, MM, EEE, LM, AS, PO-Z, CW, TY. Original draft: EEE with input from LM and AS. Review and editing: EEE, OO, AS, SD, AH, TK, LM, MM, PO-Z, CW, TY. All authors approved the final version.

  • Funding This project was funded largely by Cochrane through a specific grant for supporting Regional Initiatives. Some of the activities were funded through the Effective Health Care Research Consortium. This Consortium is funded by UK aid from the UK Government for the benefit of developing countries (Grant: 5242).

  • Disclaimer The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect UK government policy.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No additional data are available.

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