Measuring population health: A review of indicators

Vera Etches*, John Frank, Erica Di Ruggiero, Doug Manuel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This article reviews the historical development of population health indicators. We have long known that environmental, socioeconomic, early life conditions, individual actions, and medical care all interact to affect health. Present quantitative reporting on the impact of these factors on population health grew out Bills of Mortality published in the 1500s. Since then, regular censuses, civil registration of vital statistics, and international classification systems have improved data quality and comparability. Regular national health interview surveys and application of administrative data contributed information on morbidity, health services use, and some social determinants of health. More recently, traditional health databases and datasets on "nonhealth" sector determinants have been linked. Statistical methods for map-making, risk adjustment, multilevel analysis, calculating population-attributable risks, and summary measures of population health have further helped to integrate information. Reports on the health of populations remain largely confined to focused areas. This paper suggests a conceptual framework for using indicators to report on all the domains of population health. Future ethical development of indicators will incorporate principles of justice, transparency, and effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-55
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2006

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Epidemiological methods
  • Ethics
  • Framework
  • History
  • Public health


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