The selection and use of measurement tools, or metrics, to assess and monitor the health of communities is explored in seven essays and two commentaries in the July edition of Preventing Chronic Disease. The essays and commentaries were commissioned by the Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health (MATCH) initiative, a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. MATCH is intended to serve as a nationwide call to action for improving health. The initiative includes the County Health Rankings—the first set of reports to rank the overall health of nearly every county in all 50 states.
According to one of the July commentaries, there currently are no consistently agreed upon methods for measuring the health of populations. Instead, there are many different measurement tools to use and many different indicators of population health to measure. Choosing the best measurement tools and most appropriate indicators to measure is, therefore, extremely important in any effort that seeks to improve health. This set of essays and commentaries describes the characteristics of ideal metrics and explores their use in measuring various indicators of a community’s health.
The July “metrics” essays and commentaries are the first of three sets of MATCH-commissioned papers on population health topics to appear in Preventing Chronic Disease. The second and third sets of essays—one on the use of incentives in community health improvement programs and the other on cross-sector partnerships to support community health—will appear in the September and November editions of the journal. The essays seek to engage the broadest audience possible in a national discussion on improving the health of all Americans by encouraging entire communities to become healthier places to live, work, learn and play.