Article Title

Population Health Measurement: Applying Performance Measurement Concepts in Population Health Settings


Introduction: Whether the focus of population-health improvement efforts, the measurement of health outcomes, risk factors, and interventions to improve them are central to achieving collective impact in the population health perspective. And because of the importance of a shared measurement system, appropriate measures can help to ensure the accountability of and ultimately integrate the efforts of public health, the health care delivery sector, and other public and private entities in the community to improve population health. Yet despite its importance, population health measurement efforts in the United States are poorly developed and uncoordinated.

Collaborative Measurement Development: To achieve the potential of the population health perspective, public health officials, health system leaders, and others must work together to develop sets of population health measures that are suitable for different purposes yet are harmonized so that together they can help to improve a community’s health. This begins with clearly defining the purpose of a set of measures, distinguishing between outcomes for which all share responsibility and actions to improve health for which the health care sector, public health agencies, and others should be held accountable.

Framework for Population Health Measurement: Depending on the purpose of the analysis, then, measurement systems should clearly specify what to measure—in particular the population served (the denominator), what the critical health dimensions are in a measurement framework, and how the measures can be used to ensure accountability. Building on a clear understanding of the purpose and dimensions of population health that must be measured, developers can then choose specific measures using existing data or developing new data sources if necessary, with established validity, reliability, and other scientific characteristics. Rather than indiscriminately choosing among the proliferating data streams, this systematic approach to measure development can yield measurement systems that are more appropriate and useful for improving population health.