Policy relevance of the health expectancy indicator; an inventory in European Union countries
Abstract Due to epidemiological transitions in population health both an increase in life expectancy and in chronic morbidity and disability have been observed in many countries. Consequently the tension between ‘living longer’ on the one hand and the ‘quality of life’ on the other has become a central health policy problem. The introduction of the indicator ‘health expectancy’ (HE), a measurement that combines mortality data with morbidity and disability data, was a logical reaction to these changes and to the growing need for a present-day yardstick to estimate this problem. The HE indicator is still under development, a process being furthered by the international network of researchers, REVES. A European project, called Euro-REVES, aims to promote and harmonize future HE calculations in Europe. To begin this project and to gain more insight into the indicator's policy relevance, an inventory has been carried out among policy makers, National Statistical Institutes and researchers in countries of the European Union (EU). This paper presents the results of the inventory, attempts to place these within a provisional classification system of HE types, and discusses the consequences of the findings for further conceptual harmonization and development of the indicator. Already 11 of the 15 EU member states have HE results available. The actual use of such results for policy making is increasing. Notwithstanding a great diversity in sources and questions used for the calculations, there seems to be enough similarity to give the harmonization effort a good perspective.
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