Population health metrics: crucial inputs to the development of evidence for health policy

Popul Health Metr. 2003 Apr 14;1(1):6. doi: 10.1186/1478-7954-1-6.


Valid, reliable and comparable measures of the health states of individuals and of the health status of populations are critical components of the evidence base for health policy. We need to develop population health measurement strategies that coherently address the relationships between epidemiological measures (such as risk exposures, incidence, and mortality rates) and multi-domain measures of population health status, while ensuring validity and cross-population comparability.Studies reporting on descriptive epidemiology of major diseases, injuries and risk factors, and on the measurement of health at the population level - either for monitoring trends in health levels or inequalities or for measuring broad outcomes of health systems and social interventions - are not well-represented in traditional epidemiology journals, which tend to concentrate on causal studies and on quasi-experimental design. In particular, key methodological issues relating to the clear conceptualisation of, and the validity and comparability of measures of population health are currently not addressed coherently by any discipline, and cross-disciplinary debate is fragmented and often conducted in mutually incomprehensible language or paradigms. Population health measurement potentially bridges a range of currently disjoint fields of inquiry relating to health: biology, demography, epidemiology, health economics, and broader social science disciplines relevant to assessment of health determinants, health state valuations and health inequalities.This new journal will focus on the importance of a population based approach to measurement as a way to characterize the complexity of people's health, the diseases and risks that affect it, its distribution, and its valuation, and will attempt to provide a forum for innovative work and debate that bridge the many fields of inquiry relevant to population health in order to contribute to the development of valid and comparable methods for the measurement of population health and its determinants.