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The Combined Approach Matrix (CAM): A priority-setting tool for health research

In recognition of the importance of priority setting in health, the Global Forum for Health Research published in 2004 a tool called the Combined Approach Matrix (CAM). The rationale of the CAM is to bring together a large range of factors, along different dimensions, into a single analytical tool.

The analytical power of the tool was increased by allowing each of the public health elements to be analyzed according to four institutional levels, namely the individual, community and household, the health sector, all other sectors, and governance.

The first edition of the CAM provided detailed examples of its application and the tool has recently been used in four Latin American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The Global Forum for Health Research is now proud to publish the results from the four regional studies of the CAM application in various fields such as maternal health, tuberculosis, ethnic minorities, nutrition, sexual and reproductive health. The publication is entitled “Experencias en la aplicación de la Matriz Combinada en países de América Latina” will be available online as of mid-October on the Global Forum web site.

The 3D Combined Approach Matrix

The original two-dimensional tool has now been further refined into a Three-Dimensional Combined Approach Matrix (3D CAM). Through extensive experience with different applications of the CAM, it became clear that a further dimension was required to capture the multiple forms of discrimination, marginalization and vulnerability which operate beyond the original two dimensions to make sure that the priority setting in research benefits those with greatest need and contributes to improved health and equity.

The 3D CAM has been designed to identify, explore and analyze a large number of factors, and their complex interactions, across three different dimensions, and then to synthesize that information as concisely – and precisely – as possible, in a matrix, in order to maximize the chance that the priorities that are eventually selected, are indeed those which will contribute most effectively to equity in health research.

A PDF version of the 3D CAM will be available soon under the publications section of the Global Forum web site.