BACKGROUND: Research conducted on conditions responsible for the greatest disease burden should be given the highest priority, particularly in resource-limited settings. The present study aimed to assess the research output in relation to disease burden in Palestine and to identify the conditions which are under- or over-investigated, if any.
METHODS: We searched PubMed and Scopus for reports of original research relevant to human health or healthcare authored by researchers affiliated with Palestinian institutions and published between January 2000 and December 2015. We categorised the condition studied in included articles using the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) taxonomy. Data regarding burden of disease (percentage of deaths and disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)) was obtained from the Palestine profile in the GBD study. We examined the degree of discordance between the observed number of published articles for each disease/condition with the expected number based on the proportion of disease burden of that disease/condition.
RESULTS: Our search identified 2469 potentially relevant records, from which 1650 were excluded following the screening of titles and abstracts. Of the remaining 819 full-text articles, we included 511 in our review. Communicable (infectious) diseases (n = 103; 20%) was the condition with the highest number of published studies. However, cancer (n = 15; 3%) and chronic respiratory diseases (n = 15; 3%) were the conditions with the lowest number of published studies. Research output was poorly associated with disease burden, irrespective of whether it was measured in terms of DALYs (rho = -0.116, P = 0.7) or death (rho = 0.217, P = 0.5). Cardiovascular disease, cancer, and maternal and neonatal deaths accounted for more than two-thirds of the total deaths in Palestine (67%), but were infrequently addressed (23%) in published articles.
CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence of research waste measured by a mismatch between the health burden of certain diseases/conditions and the number of published research reports on those diseases/conditions in Palestine. A national research priority-setting agenda should be developed to meet the local community's need for quality evidence to implement independent and informed health policies.