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What is a priority?

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


What does it mean to say that something is a priority? Priority setting is used to balance competing claims for resources, but the nature of the exercise is ambiguous. The priorities which are claimed might be for time, resources, process, rights or service. The setting of priorities might refer to importance, relative value, precedence, special status or lexical ordering. And there are different ways of ranking priorities including simple ordering, optimization, triage and satisficing. There is a fundamental distinction between preference rankings and precedence rankings, which can lead to strongly different conclusions from the same initial information. Because there is no definitive understanding of what a priority is, there can be no authoritative formula for deciding between competing claims.


SPICKER, P. 2009. What is a priority? Journal of health services research and policy [online], 14(2), pages 112-116. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 1, 2009
Online Publication Date Apr 1, 2009
Publication Date Apr 30, 2009
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2013
Publicly Available Date Oct 2, 2013
Journal Journal of health services research and policy
Print ISSN 1355-8196
Electronic ISSN 1758-1060
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 2
Pages 112-116
Public URL


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