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Selecting population health status indicators to advance health equity

Written ByLesley DyckLesley Dyck | September 23, 2012
Lesley Dyck

Lesley Dyck, BA, MA

Knowledge Translation Specialist

Lesley is a health promotion professional with 12 years of public health experience in British Columbia focused on organizational capacity building for health equity and population health, tobacco reduction and injury prevention. Prior to working in public health she had a diverse career in the NGO sector across Canada in the areas of communication, women’s health, community development, and recreation. Lesley earned her BA in Mass Communication at Carleton University and her MA in Health Promotion at the University of British Columbia.

ldyck@stfx.ca

Those of you who have been following our progress know that here at the NCCDH we have been working hard to learn about how to better integrate health equity into Population Health Status Reporting. At our latest Learning Circle meeting, we focused on what would make the “perfect indicator” and what our experience has taught us about trying to find and integrate effective equity indicators. A synthesis of the May 2012 Learning Circle discussion on indicators is available as part of the Learning Together series.

Learning circle members noted that there would always be trade-offs in in selecting indicators to report on health inequities. Finding the right indicators - the ones that are meaningful and result in action - is as much about the process of reaching agreement with all of the various stakeholders about which indicators to use as it is about the scientific quality of the indicator. Finding the most effective measure of health equity is only possible with a process that considers local priorities and opportunities. In fact, the most effective indicators are often those that evolve, improving over time through an iterative process with engaged stakeholders.

This sounds like hard work (and it is!), but if we begin the journey and work collaboratively across regions and sectors we will be able to measure health status in ways that help us develop policies that improve health equity.  There has been excellent work proposing indicators for differences in health status and for the social determinants of health. The work conducted by the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network provides a good example.

That being said, we need to do a better job sharing real-life experiences from the field so that we can learn from each other.

To make it easier for you to share your knowledge, and ask questions about this topic, we’re holding an online conversation on health equity indicators, September 24-28th.

The Learning Circle’s next topic is the ethics and issues surrounding the use of external data. Stay tuned!

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