This article highlights issues pertaining to identification of community health priorities in a resource poor setting. Community involvement is discussed by drawing experience of involving lay people in identifying priorities in health care through the use of Nominal Group Technique. The identified health problems are compared using four selected village communities of Moshi district in Kilimanjaro region, Tanzania. We conducted this study to trace the experience and knowledge of lay people as a supplement to using 'health experts' in priority setting using malaria as a tracer condition. The patients/caregivers, women's group representatives, youth leaders, religious leaders and community leaders/elders constituted the principal subjects. Emphasis was on providing qualitative data, which are of vital consideration in multi-disciplinary oriented studies, and not on quantitative information from larger samples. We found a high level of agreement across groups, that malaria remains the leading health problem in Moshi rural district in Tanzania both in the highland and lowland areas. Our findings also indicate that 'non-medical' issues including lack of water, hunger and poverty heralded priority in the list implying that priorities should not only be focused on diseases, but should also include health services and social cultural issues. Indeed, methods which are easily understood and applied thus able to give results close to those provided by the burden of disease approaches should be adopted. It is the provision of ownership of the derived health priorities to partners including the community that enhances research utilization of the end results. In addition to disease-based methods, the Nominal Group Technique is being proposed as an important research tool for involving the non-experts in priority setting in Tanzania.
Keywords: Community Networks; Female; Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice; Health Priorities; Health Resources; Health Status; Humans; Male; Research Design; Rural Health; Rural Population; Tanzania