Evaluating Metrics to Improve Population Health
The seven metrics articles in this issue of Preventing Chronic Disease address the following topics: public health policy (1); health care access and quality (2); social and economic determinants (3); health behaviors (4); environmental metrics (5); population health outcomes (6); and health inequalities (7). The articles differ in the degree to which they establish a conceptual framework for linking metrics to rewards to improve population health. Their different perspectives raise questions of whether these metrics should meet certain criteria, regardless of domain, or whether some flexibility in the criteria for assessing metrics is necessary and desirable. Questions that arise in establishing such criteria relate to structure and function, as well as data availability. As policy-makers consider strategies to promote improvements in population health, measurement may provide powerful incentives for change, but selecting reliable and valid health metrics that can be tracked consistently across communities is challenging. The seven articles in this issue illustrate many of the complexities that policy-makers must consider in selecting such metrics, and the articles lay the groundwork for ongoing discussions on this topic.