Open Access Research article

The use of a modified Delphi approach to engage stakeholders in zoonotic disease research priority setting

Kate Sawford1, Navneet K Dhand1, Jenny-Ann LML Toribio1 and Melanie R Taylor2*

Author Affiliations

1 Farm Animal & Veterinary Public Health, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney, Camden, New South Wales, Australia

2 Centre for Health Research, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, NSW, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2014, 14:182  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-182

Published: 20 February 2014



After the 2011 cluster of Hendra virus cases in horses in Australia, public health targeted education initiatives at people in the equine industry to reduce human exposure to potentially infected horses. ‘Horse owners and Hendra Virus: A Longitudinal cohort study To Evaluate Risk’ aims to enhance public health measures through improved understanding of Hendra virus risk perception and risk mitigation strategies among horse owners and horse care providers. This paper describes the stakeholder consultation that was undertaken to ensure the cohort study outcomes were relevant to diverse groups who play a role in Hendra virus policy development and implementation.


A two-round modified Delphi study with online questionnaires was conducted. In round one, stakeholders identified priority research areas. In round two, stakeholders rated and ranked topics that emerged from thematic analysis of the round one responses. Round two data were analysed using logistic regression.


Of the 255 stakeholders contacted, 101 responded to round one. Over 450 topics were proposed. These were organized into 18 themes. Approximately two thirds of the round one respondents participated in round two. ‘Hendra virus-related risk awareness and perception’, ‘personal health and safety’, ‘emergency preparedness’, ‘risk prevention, mitigation, and biosecurity’, and ‘Hendra virus vaccination in horses – attitudes/uptake’ were the top five areas identified according to probability of being ranked extremely important.


In this study, a modified Delphi approach was effective in guiding research into Hendra virus, a zoonotic disease of animal and human health significance. The findings support the notion that stakeholders should be engaged in zoonotic disease research priority setting. Such consultation will help to ensure that research initiatives are relevant and useful to stakeholders in the position to make use of new findings.

Delphi method; Stakeholder engagement; Zoonotic disease; Hendra virus; Public health; Thematic analysis