2018-08-03Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.25646/5724
European Core Health Indicators - status and perspectives
Tijhuis, Mariken J.
Background: The European Core Health Indicators (ECHI) are a key source of comparable health information for the European Union (EU) and its Member States (MS). The ECHI shortlist contains 88 indicators which were developed by experts from MS and international organisations. Most indicators are derived from data sources at the EU’s statistical office (Eurostat), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and are available for most MS. The remaining indicators on the shortlist are at different stages of conceptual and/or methodological development. The indicators have been reviewed in the past against scientific developments, changes in data collections and emerging policy needs, yet not as part of a systematic and sustainable procedure. There is also no regular inventory of problems met by the MS in collecting the necessary data. Work package 4 of the BRIDGE Health project aimed at updating and improving the existing ECHI-indicator knowledge and expertise and at strengthening the scientific base that supports the effective development and use of health indicators for health policy evaluation and prioritization by the EU and its MS. The aim of this paper is to present a first overview of its outcomes and to explore issues concerning the ECHI data availability, content and policy relevance, update process and accessibility to stakeholders, in light of working towards a sustainable future. Methods: Two surveys were conducted within the framework of the BRIDGE Health project to reassess the status of the ECHI shortlist. The first survey focused on data availability in EU MS, candidate countries and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries. The second survey evaluated current needs and criteria with respect to content and policy relevance of the ECHI shortlist. Exploring potential new indicator topics was part of both surveys. All evaluations were supported by an advisory network of national and international experts. Results: Of the 36 countries (EU MS, candidate and EFTA countries) contacted for the data availability mapping, 23 countries (63%) participated in the survey. Data availability from preferred data sources varied between chapters. Availability was highest for the chapter on demography and socio-economic situation, followed by the chapter on health status, where data were available for most indicators from more than 90% of the participating countries. Problems experienced by MS relating to the incorporation of ECHI into their health systems were also identified through the survey. Findings from the survey on policy relevance point at the need for strengthening the links with policy (priorities) and for exploring a possible format change of the list to accommodate actionability. It also showed support for embedding ECHI in a sustainable health information structure; this may practically be aided by a web-based single point of access to an information repository. Conclusion: Policy relevance is an essential but not systematically developed criterion for the inclusion of indicators into the ECHI shortlist. Data availability is crucial for the actual implementation of indicators and has considerably increased for ECHI in the last decade. The data availability mapping provides a structured overview of the current status of data availability for implemented indicators. The ECHI shortlist can contribute to the collection of comparable policy-relevant health data in Europe, foster evidence-based public health and contribute to Member States learning from each other. Flexible and systematic incorporation of policy relevance in the ECHI shortlist review and revision process may substantiate ECHI as a core component of a future sustainable European health information infrastructure.
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