Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 2012, Online First
Healthy Cities Indicators—A Suitable Instrument to Measure Health?
Premila Webster and Denise Sanderson
The evidence-base for a health strategy should include information on the determinants of health and how they link together if it is to influence the health of the population. The WHO European Healthy Cities Network developed a set of 53 healthy city indicators (HCIs), to describe the health of its citizens and capture a range of local initiatives addressing the wider dimensions of health. This was the first systematic effort to collect and analyze a range of data from European cities. The analysis provided important insights into the interpretation, availability, and feasibility of collecting data, resulting in the development of a revised set of 32 indicators with improved definitions.
An analysis of the revised indicators showed that this data was more complete and feasible to collect. It provided useful information to cities contributing to developing a description of health and thus helping to identify health problems. It also highlighted issues about the importance of collecting qualitative as well as quantitative data, the number of indicators and the appropriateness of using the indicators to compare different cities. HCIs facilitated the collection of routinely available health data in a systematic manner.
The introduction of HCIs has encouraged cities to adopt a structured process of collecting information on the health of their citizens and build on this information by collecting appropriate local data for developing a city health profile to underpin a city health plan that would set out strategies and interventions to improve health and provide the evidence-base for health plans.