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Eur J Public Health. 2012 Oct;22(5):716-21. Epub 2012 Jan 31.

Health indicators in Europe: availability and data needs.

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National Institute for Health and Welfare THL, Department of Health, Functional Capacity and Welfare, PO Box 30, FI-00271 Helsinki, Finland.



The European Union (EU) lacks adequate capacity for public health monitoring. The creation of a stable European Health Information System would help Member States to carry out evidence-based health policy. Such a system would also benefit EU health priorities by providing European wide comparable information. This study is the first comprehensive assessment of the availability of general health data in Europe.


The main aim was to assess the availability of the European Community Health Indicators (ECHI) in each EU Member State. This was done by means of a review of international health databases, an online survey and face-to-face discussions with experts in 31 European countries.


The European average availability score for all ECHI indicators was 74% ranging from 56% to 84%. In most countries, about half of the ECHI indicators can be derived from routinely collected health information. This is true for demographic information, mortality and hospital discharge-based morbidity. However, many important ECHI indicators are lacking in most European countries. These include population representative data for health determinants, the provision and use of health care services, injuries, the quality of health care and health promotion.


Valid health information is essential for improving people's health across Europe. There is an urgent need to develop harmonized methods for gathering and disseminating representative health data. These methods should be developed jointly by DG Health and Consumers, Eurostat and EU Member States.

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