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PLoS One. 2012;7(1):e29752. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029752. Epub 2012 Jan 6.

A stakeholder-informed approach to the identification of criteria for the prioritization of zoonoses in Canada.

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  • 1Centre for Public Health and Zoonoses, and Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph, Guelph, Canada. vng03@uoguelph.ca



Zoonotic diseases account for over 60% of all communicable diseases causing illness in humans and 75% of recently emerging infectious diseases. As limited resources are available for the control and prevention of zoonotic diseases, it is necessary to prioritize diseases in order to direct resources into those with the greatest needs. The selection of criteria for prioritization has traditionally been on the basis of expert opinion; however, details of the methods used to identify criteria from expert opinion often are not published and a full range of criteria may not be captured by expert opinion.


This study used six focus groups to identify criteria for the prioritization of zoonotic diseases in Canada. Focus groups included people from the public, animal health professionals and human health professionals. A total of 59 criteria were identified for prioritizing zoonotic diseases. Human-related criteria accounted for the highest proportion of criteria identified (55%), followed by animal-related criteria (26%) then pathogen/disease-related criteria (19%). Similarities and differences were observed in the identification and scoring of criteria for disease prioritization between groups; the public groups were strongly influenced by the individual-level of disease burden, the responsibility of the scientific community in disease prioritization and the experiences of recent events while the professional groups were influenced by the societal- and population-level of disease burden and political and public pressure.


This was the first study to describe a mixed semi-quantitative and qualitative approach to deriving criteria for disease prioritization. This was also the first study to involve the opinion of the general public regarding disease prioritization. The number of criteria identified highlights the difficulty in prioritizing zoonotic diseases. The method presented in this paper has formulated a comprehensive list of criteria that can be used to inform future disease prioritization studies.

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