National health policies, strategies and plans

Situation analysis and priority setting

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A situation analysis is an assessment of the current health situation and is fundamental to designing and updating national policies, strategies and plans.

A strong situation analysis is not just a collection of facts describing the epidemiology, demography and health status of the population. Instead, it should be comprehensive, encompassing the full range of current and potential future health issues and their determinants. It should also assess the current situation as compared to the expectations and needs of the country.

Such a situation analysis can then serve as the basis for setting priorities to be addressed in the policy, strategy or plan through the process of a broad, inclusive policy dialogue.

A robust situation analysis might include an assessment of:

  • social determinants of health and health needs, including current and projected disease burdens and health challenges
  • expectations, including current and projected demand for services as well as social expectations
  • health system performance and of performance gaps in responding to needs and expectations
  • capacity of the health sector to respond to current and to anticipate future challenges
  • health system resources (human, physical, financial, informational) and of resource gaps in responding to needs and expectations
  • stakeholder positions (including, where appropriate, of external partners).

WHO supports Member States to conduct sound situation analyses and inclusive priority setting processes by, for example, facilitating the bringing together of stakeholders and domestic expertise to build an evidence-based consensus. The comprehensive and inclusive process should vastly improve the resulting policy, strategy or plan.

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