Population health rankings can be used by various actors for different purposes. This article examines those potential uses and concludes that the chief promise of population health rankings lies in two areas.
The first is to help set agendas—stimulating awareness, motivation, and debate over means to improved health outcomes. The second is to help establish broad responsibility for population health and the need for multisectoral collaboration to improve outcomes. A new performance regime based on rankings will require more research to establish causal pathways and relative determinants of health, as well as stronger evidence about the effects of public and private interventions to guide investment strategies. Finally, leaders who develop and promote population health rankings must further develop the technical community needed to translate the response to the rankings into constructive public debate and policy development.