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Harmonising summary measures of population health using global survey instruments
  1. Nicolas Berger1,2,
  2. Jean-Marie Robine3,4,
  3. Toshiyuki Ojima5,
  4. Jennifer Madans6,
  5. Herman Van Oyen1
  1. 1Public Health and Surveillance, Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Faculty of Public Health & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), Montpellier, France
  4. 4École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, France
  5. 5Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu, Japan
  6. 6National Center for Health Statistics, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to Nicolas Berger, Faculty of Public Health & Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; nicolas.berger{at}


Summary measures of population health—health expectancies in particular—have become a standard for quantifying and monitoring population health. To date, cross-national comparability of health expectancies is limited, except within the European Union (EU). To advance international comparability, the European Joint Action on Healthy Life Years (JA: EHLEIS) set up an international working group. The working group discussed the conceptual basis of summary measures of population health and made suggestions for the development of comparable health expectancies to be used across the EU and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) members. In this paper, which summarises the main results, we argue that harmonised health data needed for health expectancy calculation can best be obtained from ‘global’ survey measures, which provide a snapshot of the health situation using 1 or a few survey questions. We claim that 2 global measures of health should be pursued for their high policy relevance: a global measure of participation restriction and a global measure of functional limitation. We finally provide a blueprint for the future development and implementation of the 2 global measures. The blueprint sets the basis for subsequent international collaboration, having as a core group Member States of the EU, the USA and Japan. Other countries, in particular OECD members, are invited to join the initiative.

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