Research

Introducing an Ethics Framework for health priority-setting in South Africa on the path to universal health coverage

D Blaauw, C Chambers, T Chirwa, N Duba, L Gwyther, K Hofman, L London, T Masilela, N McKerrow, O Modupe, L Moeng, V Mubaiwa, N Nematswerani, Y Ramkissoon, Y Saloojee, S Tshabalala, K Valabhjee, M Versteeg-Mojanaga, N Barsdorf, D Conco, M DiStefano, R Li, K Chalkidou, R Faden, S Goldstein, K Hofman, C B Krubiner, M W Merritt, A Mosam, S Potgieter, A Tugendhaft

Abstract


Background. South Africa (SA) has embarked on a process to implement universal health coverage (UHC) funded by National Health Insurance (NHI). The 2019 NHI Bill proposes creation of a health technology assessment (HTA) body to inform decisions about which interventions NHI funds will cover under UHC. In practice, HTA often relies mainly on economic evaluations of cost-effectiveness and budget impact, with less attention to the systematic, specific consideration of important social, organisational and ethical impacts of the health technology in question. In this context, the South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage (SAVE-UHC) research project recognised an opportunity to help shape the health priority-setting process by providing a way to take account of multiple, ethically relevant considerations that reflect SA values. The SAVE-UHC Research Team developed and tested an SA-specific Ethics Framework for HTA assessment and analysis.

Objectives. To develop and test an Ethics Framework for use in the SA context for health priority-setting.

Methods. The Framework was developed iteratively by the authors and a multidisciplinary panel (18 participants) over a period of 18 months, using the principles outlined in the 2015 NHI White Paper as a starting point. The provisional Ethics Framework was then tested with multi-stakeholder simulated appraisal committees (SACs) in three provinces. The membership of each SAC roughly reflected the composition of a potential SA HTA committee. The deliberations and dedicated focus group discussions after each SAC meeting were recorded, analysed and used to refine the Framework, which was presented to the Working Group for review, comment and final approval.

Results. This article describes the 12 domains of the Framework. The first four (Burden of the Health Condition, Expected Health Benefits and Harms, Cost-Effectiveness Analysis, and Budget Impact) are commonly used in HTA assessments, and a further eight cover the other ethical domains. These are Equity, Respect and Dignity, Impacts on Personal Financial Situation, Forming and Maintaining Important Personal Relationships, Ease of Suffering, Impact on Safety and Security, Solidarity and Social Cohesion, and Systems Factors and Constraints. In each domain are questions and prompts to enable use of the Framework by both analysts and assessors. Issues that arose, such as weighting of the domains and the availability of SA evidence, were discussed by the SACs.

Conclusions. The Ethics Framework is intended for use in priority-setting within an HTA process. The Framework was well accepted by a diverse group of stakeholders. The final version will be a useful tool not only for HTA and other priority-setting processes in SA, but also for future efforts to create HTA methods in SA and elsewhere.


Authors' affiliations

D Blaauw, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

C Chambers, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

T Chirwa, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

N Duba, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

L Gwyther, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

K Hofman, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

L London, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

T Masilela, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

N McKerrow, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

O Modupe, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

L Moeng, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

V Mubaiwa, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

N Nematswerani, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

Y Ramkissoon, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

Y Saloojee, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

S Tshabalala, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

K Valabhjee, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

M Versteeg-Mojanaga, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Working Group

N Barsdorf, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

D Conco, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

M DiStefano, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

R Li, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

K Chalkidou, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

R Faden, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

S Goldstein, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

K Hofman, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

C B Krubiner, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

M W Merritt, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

A Mosam, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

S Potgieter, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

A Tugendhaft, SAVE-UHC (South African Values and Ethics for Universal Health Coverage) Research Team

Full Text

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Keywords

Ethics; Health technology assessment; Priority setting; National Health Insurance; Equity, Universal health coverage, Values

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2022;112(3):240-244.

Article History

Date submitted: 2022-03-02
Date published: 2022-03-02

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