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Infant mortality is not an adequate summary measure of population health
  1. C D Mathers,
  2. J A Salomon,
  3. C J L Murray
  1. Evidence and Information for Policy, World Health Organisation, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr C D Mathers;

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Measuring the quantity of interest

The World Health Organisation (WHO) annually reports infant mortality rates (IMR), child mortality rates, adult mortality rates, average life expectancies, and healthy life expectancies for all 191 member states.1,2 IMR correlates highly with HALE across these 191 member states in 2000 (r=0.93). Reidpath and Allotey argue that IMR is an acceptable proxy measure of population health because of this high correlation.3

Inspection of the country specific estimates of HALE and IMR reveals that, despite the high correlation, there are substantial variations both in adult mortality and in the average loss of full health at any given level of IMR. In the nine countries with an IMR in the range of 6–7 per 1000, for example, there is a range of 71 to 80 in life expectancy at birth and a range of 10% to 15% in the proportion of total life expectancy …

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  • The acronym for healthy life expectancy was changed from DALE to HALE in the World Health Report 2001.1

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