Background: Most comparisons of health data in Europe take place at the national level. However, there is increased interest in looking at health data at a sub-national level. This is because of the increased importance in many European countries, of regions and devolved powers to them. This study aimed to establish the availability of health data at a regional level and to construct an experimental database.
Methods: Using a network of country correspondents, data were collected on a series of topics from all the regions of that country. In addition, a supplementary list of data was collected from one region of each country.
Results: Out of the then 15 Member States of the European Union (EU), 14 countries participated in the study. Thirteen countries were able to supply data. Where data were available, using the criteria we developed, these were of relatively good quality. Data on mortality was most readily available, but data on the important public health topics such as obesity was much more difficult to obtain, and absent in many cases.
Conclusions: It is possible to construct a database and a resultant set of indicators for relevant sub-national areas of Member States in the EU. This is not likely to be achieved through current routine data collection systems unless significant changes are made to the data collection processes such as those undertaken by Eurostat. There is, also, an urgent need to introduce comprehensive sub-national data collections on important public health topics such as obesity and smoking.