Health indicators are sets of quantitative or qualitative data that give information on the health status of individuals, groups or populations. Health indicators allow for monitoring, measuring, and comparison. With indicators it is possible to analyse which risk factors are important for which group and whether these differ from the important risk factors for the overall population. Clear data on the socio-economic determinants of health inequalities are fundamental to design targeted policies and specialised approaches addressing the health hazards for those at greatest risk.
Many health indicators exist and below we present some data initiatives.
ECHI data tool – DG SANTE, European Commission
The European Core Health Indicators (ECHI), formerly known as European Community Health Indicators, are a list of 88 indicators out of which nearly 60 have definitions and data collection in place. They are grouped in five chapters:
- demographic and socio-economic factors (e.g. birth rate, income inequality),
- health status (e.g. life expectancy, HIV incidence),
- determinants of health (e.g. blood pressure, consumption/availability of fruit),
- health interventions: health services (e.g. cervical cancer screening, insurance coverage)
- health interventions: health promotion (e.g. policies on environmental tobacco smoke exposure, integrated programmes in setting, including workplace, schools, hospital).
The ECHI data tool is an interactive application to present relevant and comparable information on health at European level. Data covers all EU Member States, and often also EFTA and candidate countries. The ECHI data tool allows visitors to analyse data per country and per year, and also per region (sub-national level) if the information is available. Results can be displayed in line charts, bar charts, maps or tables; users can export both data and images in the most common formats.
Interactive Atlases on Health Equity – WHO Europe
These atlases by WHO aim to (1) provide more visibility to the sub-national patterns of health and their determinants, and (2) to analyse how such an integrated information system and its underlying data can inform policy across European countries.
The added value is to: improve insight into the regional dimension of social inequalities in health across counties; provide a tool for increased engagement of the public and the media in the dialogue with the competent authorities on health policy and action; and provide a pilot for a more regular monitoring and assessment of the magnitude of social inequalities in health and the impact of the relevant policies, interventions and services,
Socioeconomic and health-related indicators from EUROSTAT databases have been used to produce the atlases. The NUTS 2 regions are the main geographical units of analysis. Variables are displayed in maps, graphs and tables represent more than 600 individual indicators.
Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union. Its task is to provide the EU with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions.
The statistics are categorised by theme: General and regional statistics; Economy and finance; Population and social conditions; Industry, trade and services; Agriculture and fisheries; External Trade; Transport; Environment and energy; Science and technology.
The population and social conditions theme covers, among others, the following subthemes:
- Asylum and managed migration
- Education and training
- Income, social inclusion and living conditions
- Quality of life indicators
- Migrant integration
- Equality (age and gender)
“Shaping EUROpean policies to promote HEALTH equitY” was a project that aimed to increase knowledge and resources on policies that have the potential to promote health and health equity across European regions with a focus on metropolitan areas. The consortium developed a population health index which is supported by a web-based geographic information system.
The main objective behind the Geoportal healthyregionseurope is to provide a snapshot of the health of the European population over multiple dimensions and geographical levels. The results of the application of a multidimensional and multilevel measure – the EURO-HEALTHY Population Health Index (PHI) are presented on two different scales:
- Regional level — 269 NUTS 2 regions of the 28 European Union countries
- Municipal level — 540 municipalities of ten European metropolitan areas: Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Lisbon, London, Paris, Prague, Stockholm and Turin.
The project published two important books:
- Promoting population health and equity in Europe: from evidence to policy https://doi.org/10.14195/978-989-26-1500-4
- Atlas of population health in European Union regions https://doi.org/10.14195/978-989-26-1463-2
BRIDGE Health project
BRIDGE Health stands for Bridging Information and Data Generation for Evidence-based Health policy and research. It aims to prepare the transition towards a sustainable and integrated EU health information system for both public health and research purposes.
The project was launched in May 2015 and runs for 30 months. It includes 31 partners in 16 countries. The project bridges the best of EU projects in domains of population and health system monitoring, indicator development, health examination surveys, environment and health, population injury and disease registries, clinical and administrative health data collection systems and methods of health systems monitoring and evaluation.
BRIDGE Health has been preceded by the projects EHEMU and EHLEIS, which produced the EurOhex website. Most likely, it will be followed by a Joint Action starting in 2018 (tbc).
SHARE – Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe
The Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) is a multidisciplinary and cross-national panel database of micro data on health, socio-economic status and social and family networks of more than 45,000 individuals aged 50 or over.
Data collected include health variables (e.g. self-reported health, health conditions, physical and cognitive functioning, health behaviour, use of health care facilities), bio-markers (e.g. grip strength, body-mass index, peak flow), psychological variables (e.g. psychological health, well-being, life satisfaction), economic variables (e.g. current work activity, opportunities to work past retirement age, wealth and consumption, housing, education), and social support variables (e.g. assistance within families, transfers of income and assets, social networks, volunteer activities).
ECHIM Joint Action (European Community Health Indicators Monitoring)
ECHIM was a three-year project to develop and implement health indicators and health monitoring in the EU and the Member States. It continued the work of the previous ECHI and ECHIM projects and was funded by the European Union Second Programme of Community Action in the Field of Health 2008–2013.
The latest version of the project’s shortlist (June 2008) comprises 88 indicators, which were collected and developed by the ECHIM experts in close cooperation with EC health indicator projects, DG Eurostat, DG SANCO, WHO and OECD.