Indicators without a cause. Reflections on the development and use of indicators in health care from a public health perspective

Int J Qual Health Care. 2001 Dec;13(6):433-8. doi: 10.1093/intqhc/13.6.433.


Indicators have a long history in public health. Since the end of the 18th century information on the health of communities has been gathered on a health system level and public health indicators have become more sophisticated over the vears. However, in many modern health care systems there is a separation between public health and health services. This paper discusses the need for integration and promotes a stronger public health orientation of health services. This has consequences for the nature of indicators on the health services level. The methodological problems of turning epidemiological data into management information for health services are discussed. The key message is that the health of the community should be the ultimate cause of all indicators.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Humans
  • Public Health*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care*