Background The importance of stakeholder involvement in priority setting has been recognized in theoretical and empirical literature; however, there is a paucity of evidence reporting on stakeholder involvement in planning the response to public health emergencies. The COVID-19 pandemic provides an opportunity to explore how stakeholders are involved, and which groups are most engaged in these processes.
Methods This study is part of a global documentary analysis of COVID-19 national response plans. We assessed the degree to which pandemic plans from a sample of 86 countries adhered to twenty quality indicators of effective priority setting included in the Kapiriri & Martin’s framework. One of these is stakeholder involvement, viewed to enhance the legitimacy and acceptability of policy decisions by incorporating the interests of affected parties, and to enhance fairness through the inclusion of a range of values. We extracted information about individuals and institutions involved in the development of the plans, and any explanation of their level of involvement or contribution.
Results Overall, 68 countries reported stakeholder involvement in the development of COVID-19 response plans. Most of these plans were led by the ministries of health in each country. Eighteen plans briefly described the engagement of representatives from different health-related government organizations, forty-five countries mentioned the involvement of stakeholders from sectors other than health (e.g., transportation, finance, trading, international affairs); and seven countries reported detailed information about approaches used to involve stakeholders, as well as different stakeholder groups engaged from academia, medical organizations, religious institutions, or citizen groups.
Discussion In all reviewed plans, stakeholders were dominated by national government and expert representatives from the health sector. Direct involvement of citizens, community or patient groups was recorded in only a few plans. This low level of public participation may be related to the urgency with which plans were developed.
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