Organization Promotes Use of Social Indicators to Measure a Community's Quality of Life

Convening a national forum to advance social indicators

Since the 1960's, social scientists and people interested in community well-being have used social indicators — i.e., measures of trends in such areas as demographics, education, environment and health — to monitor quality of life in communities across the country.

From 2001 to 2004, staff at the Health Research and Educational Trust, Chicago, undertook a variety of activities, including conference sessions, presentations and publications, to strengthen and support the use of social indicators.

Key Results

  • At the "Advances in the Sciences and Practice of Community Indicators" conference, held in Reno, Nevada, March 10–13, 2004, project staff co-sponsored, with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four sessions on public health indicators for communities. The sessions were:
    • "Developing Indicators That Have Impact"
    • "Did We Make a Difference? Community Indicators and Evaluation"
    • "From Research to Action to Results (Part II): A Tale of Three Cities — Exploring Experiences of Developing and Using QOL Indicators in Summit County (Ohio), Jacksonville (Fla.) and Pasadena (Calif.)"
    • "Health & QOL: What Should We Be Measuring?"
  • Project staff produced a report titled A Community Indicators Report: Selected Stories from the 2004 Community Indicators Conference.
  • Steering committee members — all of whom are leaders in the social indicators movement — committed to place the topic of social indicators on the agendas of their national meetings.

Key Recommendations

  • The steering committee made the following recommendations to enhance the social indicators movement:
    • Provide forums and resources for sharing best practices and stimulating new concepts within the field.
    • Advance policies that promote better quality data and greater availability for their use in developing and reporting social indicators.
    • Provide education and training on the development and use of social indicators in order to make advocates of social health reporting more effective.
    • Frame the case for the importance of using social indicators to monitor community well-being.


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) supported the project with a grant of $109,514 from May 2001 through April 2004.

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