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. Many health indicators exist and there are over 40 core European Community health indicators (out of a complete list of 88 indicators) for which data is readily available and reasonably comparable.
Indicators can be divided by different categories, such as Demographic and socio-economic situation (examples of indicators are birth rate, income inequality); Health Status (examples of indicators are life expectancy, cancer incidence); Health Determinants (examples of indicators are blood pressure, consumption/availability of fruit) or Health Services (examples of indicators are Cervical cancer screening, insurance coverage).
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 specialized methods and approaches that address the health hazards for those at greatest risk.
Below you can find an overview of useful websites on data and indicators related to health inequalities.
WHO Interactive atlases on health equity in 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.
The following interactive atlases have been developed: Correlation map atlases, Atlases of social inequalities, and Regional comparison atlases.
HEIDI data tool – DG SANCO, European Commission
The HEIDI data tool is an interactive application to present relevant and comparable information on health at European level. The tool is presenting a list of 88 indicators, grouped in four sections – a fifth section on health promotion is currently under development:
- demographic and socio-economic factors,
- health status,
- determinants of health,
- health interventions: health services
The indicators were identified by the ECHI project (European Community Health Indicators) and developed by a group of experts. Most of the data is provided by Eurostat, however many indicators are compiled relying also on other sources, such as WHO, OECD, specific programmes and specialised databases.
Data covers all EU Member States, and often also EFTA and candidate countries. The HEIDI 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.
Eurostat is the statistical office of the European Union. Its task is to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions.
The statistics are categorized 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 the following subthemes:
- Health (Public health/ Health and safety at work)
- Education and training
- Labour market (including LFS – Labour Force Survey)
- Income, Social Inclusion and Living conditions
- Social protection
- Household Budget Surveys
- Crime and criminal justice
I2SARE: Health inequalities indicators in the regions of Europe
The European project I2SARE was established to produce a health profile for each region of the European Union, to create a typology of those regions of Europe and a typology of sub regional territories in a selection of countries and regions.
It total 265 regional health profiles providing indicators on the health status in each region of all countries in Europe is now available to help decision makers at different levels to develop their health policy. The 37 indicators used for this work enable inequalities between similar and dissimilar regions to be compared.
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 all EU 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 through the Joint Action.
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.
EurOhex: European Health and Life Expectancy Information System (JA:EHLEiS)
EurOhex is a website which provides access to research on health expectancies in Europe. It includes a database on health indicators comprising life expectancies and Healthy Life Years (HLY) for 27 European countries. EurOhex is the website of the Joint Action: European Health and Life Expectancy Information System (JA:EHLEiS).
Two previous projects have been conducted to promote healthy life years indicator, based on the development of an Information System and research work to monitor health trends and gaps in Europe.
During the first phase (2004-2007) the EHEMU project developed several summary measures of population health (SMPH) indicating the quality of the remaining years that a person is expected to live (i.e. free of chronic disease, free of disability and in good perceived health).
In the second phase (2007-2010) the EHLEIS project systematically monitored health trends and gaps among the European countries and to identify their determinants through the survey instruments developed by EHEMU and included in the new pan-European survey SILC (European Statistics on Incomes and Living Conditions) and SHARE (Survey on Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe).
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).
Below you can find an overview of publications on data and indicators related to health inequalities. All publications are available in our publications database.
Can we build on existing information systems to monitor health inequities and the social determinants of health in the EU? (EuroHealthNet, 2010)
The objective of this paper is to provide a brief overview of the data collected and indicators that are available at national and EU level, to monitor health inequalities and socio-economic determinants of health. It will specifically look at data and indicators with relevance to health inequities and their determinants.
This paper has been written to inform public health and health promotion professionals and decision makers who are not directly involved in collecting of data, but who are users of data. The information presented has been collected from various sources and articles. Rather than providing an exhaustive analysis, the aim is to present an overall picture that can lead to a better understanding of the existing situation in Europe, to highlight the need for a more coordinated approach in this area.