Prioritisation for future surveillance, prevention and control of 98 communicable diseases in Belgium: a 2018 multi-criteria decision analysis study

Working group Epidemiologists, Working group Disease and Criteria selection

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Background: National public health agencies are required to prioritise infectious diseases for prevention and control. We applied the prioritisation method recommended by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to rank infectious diseases, according to their relative importance for surveillance and public health, to inform future public health action in Belgium. Methods: We applied the multi-criteria-decision-analysis approach. A working group of epidemiologists and statisticians from Belgium (n = 6) designed a balanced set of prioritisation criteria. A panel of Belgian experts (n = 80) allocated in an online survey each criteria a weight, according to perceived relative importance. Next, experts (n = 37) scored each disease against each criteria in an online survey, guided by disease-specific factsheets referring the period 2010–2016 in Belgium. The weighted sum of the criteria’s scores composed the final weighted score per disease, on which the ranking was based. Sensitivity analyses quantified the impact of eight alternative analysis scenarios on the top-20 ranked diseases. We identified criteria and diseases associated with data-gaps as those with the highest number of blank answers in the scoring survey. Principle components of the final weighted score were identified. Results: Working groups selected 98 diseases and 18 criteria, structured in five criteria groups. The diseases ranked highest were (in order) pertussis, human immunodeficiency virus infection, hepatitis C and hepatitis B. Among the five criteria groups, overall the highest weights were assigned to ‘impact on the patient’, followed by ‘impact on public health’, while different perceptions were identified between clinicians, microbiologists and epidemiologists. Among the 18 individual criteria, ‘spreading potential’ and ‘events requiring public health action’ were assigned the highest weights. Principle components clustered with thematic disease groups. Notable data gaps were found among hospital-related diseases. Conclusions: We ranked infectious diseases using a standardised reproducible approach. The diseases ranked highest are included in current public health programs, but additional reflection for example about needs among risk groups is recommended. Cross-reference of the obtained ranking with current programs is needed to verify whether resources and activities map priority areas. We recommend to implement this method in a recurrent evaluation cycle of national public health priorities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number192
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Allocation of resources
  • Burden of disease
  • Expert perspectives
  • Health domains
  • Infectious diseases
  • MCDA
  • Prioritisation
  • Public health action
  • Ranking
  • Surveillance priorities

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