Measuring or valuing population health: Some conceptual problems

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There is no way literally to measure health, because health is multi-dimensional, and there is no metric whereby one person who is healthier than a second with respect to one dimension but less healthy with respect to another counts as healthier, less healthy or equally healthy overall. Health analysts instead measure how good or bad health states are in some regard. If these values are measures of health states, then identical health states must have identical values. But in different circumstances, the same health state may have different values. It may be better or worse. Uniform values can nevertheless be assigned to kinds of health states, either as a weighted average of the values of their tokens or as the value of the performance in a standard environment of the capacity the health state constitutes. These uniform values are not well suited for some of the purposes for which summary measures of population health have been intended, and a set of non-evaluative indicators may be an attractive alternative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalPublic Health Ethics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Health Policy


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