Measurement of health status in the 1990s

Annu Rev Public Health. 1990;11:165-83. doi: 10.1146/annurev.pu.11.050190.001121.


The use of health-related quality of life measures, especially those based on function, are likely to increase during the next decade. This increase, however, is most likely to occur in clinical research and clinical practice. Unless the necessary political will, resources, data, and policy researchers coexist, there will be relatively little advance in the use of health status measures for decision-making and policy. This prediction is based on the observation that policy research tends to rely on available national data, that currently these data provide limited information about health status, and that there appears to be insufficient interest and resources to broaden data collection or to develop methods that incorporate a broad spectrum of health outcomes (e.g. death, impairment, functional status, and perceptions) into a single instrument or measure of health on large populations and communities. This state of affairs is particularly unfortunate as we face a decade in which available health and medical care may become more limited and social inequity in access and health status may become more marked. The effect of social inequities and restrictions to health care on the health of the nation cannot continue to be determined with reference only to the structure and process of the health care system. Health and quality of life outcomes are what count. And, these outcomes cannot be determined without appropriate and inclusive measures of health-related quality of life. Of course, we hope our prediction is wrong and that the motivation and resources will be found to help resolve methodologic issues in the measurement of population health status and quality of life and to provide the necessary data. We hope that government agencies, employers, and private providers will begin to collect health-related quality of life data on the constituents and populations they serve. Even if these data are imperfect or primitive, the effects of improving accessibility and quality of health care can only be assessed adequately in terms of the health-related quality of life of the nation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Services / economics
  • Community Health Services / standards
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Forecasting
  • Health Priorities / trends
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Quality of Life
  • United States