Technical Consultation on the Selection of Health Products. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019
(2019; 19 pages)


Having national lists of essential health products helps countries use funds efficiently and focus their procurement, production and delivery efforts on the safest and most effective products to meet the most important needs in their health systems.

But how do countries decide what products should go on their lists? To support them in selection, WHO maintains four model lists:

  • List of Essential Medicines;
  • List of Essential Diagnostics;
  • Lists of Priority Medical Devices; and
  • Priority Assistive Products List.

In January 2019, WHO consulted stakeholders on how these lists are used and how they might be improved. Through an online survey and expert meeting, stakeholders reviewed each list, identified strengths and weaknesses, and suggested improvements.

They identified several benefits of using the lists, including more trust in national selection processes among stakeholders, stronger budget allocation, and more streamlined policies and processes. But they also pointed to several practical challenges, such as diversity of context across countries, limited local data on clinical value and cost-effectiveness of list items, lack of resources for developing or implementing a national list, and poor accessibility of the WHO lists.

One of the biggest barriers to use, particularly among the newer lists of diagnostics, medical devices and assistive products, is a lack of awareness, both at an operational level as well as at a ministerial level, within and beyond the health sector. A lack of integration across the lists—in nomenclature, timing, communications and information exchange— was also cited as a major barrier to use.

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The WHO Essential Medicines and Health Products Information Portal was designed and is maintained by Human Info NGO. Last updated: December 1, 2019