Development of health urban indicators

Introduction

The EU Public Health Programme work plan 2005 identifies the development of an urban health indicator system as an essential part of a comprehensive and integrated EU health information and knowledge system. This was already set out in the Strategy on European Community Health Indicators (ECHI), known as the "short list" (July 2004).

Based on the experience of earlier EU-funded health monitoring projects, such as the ISARE I, II and III projects (regional health indicators), Megapoles and Urban Audit programme, which involved a wide range of member states, the project EURO-URHIS (European system of urban health indicators) was selected for funding in 2005. This project will address current priority policies, ensuring their synergy and reducing duplication. Through the active involvement of national authorities and experts, the project will contribute to the development of a sustainable urban health information and knowledge system. A team of experts in this field will implement the work.

See European System of Urban Health Indicators
See Improving Health in European Urban Areas: The Role of Urban Health Indicators' Conference, June 2008

The urban health information system will support policy-making, identify and prioritise urban health problems on the basis of evidence and enable the monitoring of the effects of actions taken to address them. In addition, it will enhance timely access to information, facilitate communication with the public and contribute to building advocacy, communication and education strategies. Finally, by using a standardized methodology for data collection, processing and dissemination, transnational comparisons and time trend analyses will become feasible.

The project will develop a definition of urban areas and populations across all Member States taking into account accepted classifications, e.g. EUROSTAT NUTS (Nomenclature des unités territoriales statistiques) and LAU (Local Administrative Units) identifying the most appropriate administrative level for the purpose of health information exchange between urban areas.

The project will include a literature review and appraisal of published literature (including 'grey' literature) on the health of urban populations and related indicators. The review will also help to identify appropriate data sources and data categories (from the ECHI list) necessary for building urban health indicators at the relevant level.

The project aims to develop a comprehensive urban health information and knowledge system to:

1. Help identify and prioritise urban health problems
2. Enable the monitoring of the effects of actions taken to address them
3. Ensure timely access to information
4. Contribute to building advocacy, communication and education strategies
5. Use standardized methodology for data collection, processing and dissemination, allowing transnational comparisons and time trend analysis

This project will consider the results of previous EU-funded projects on health information systems, in particular the Regional Health Indicators system ( ISARE) and ECHI projects.

It will also take into account the experience and knowledge gained from the Healthy Cities programme, the Urban Audit programme (DG REGIO) and the Megapoles project.

The Megapoles Project

The Megapoles projectpdf(624 KB) (supported by DG SANCO) is a network of 15 European capital cities. These cities face similar public health challenges.
The aim of the network is to improve health and reduce health inequalities through information exchange, comparison and co-operation between capital cities. Since its establishment in 1997, Megapoles has produced a number of publications that focus on the distinctive features of health promotion in an urban context.
The Megapoles member cities are: Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Lazio-Roma, Lisbon, London, Lyon, Madrid, Oslo, Stockholm and Vienna. Although not a capital city, Lyon is a participant in the Megapoles network. Member cities are represented on the Megapoles network by senior politicians and health executives.

Several reports on urban health 1999-2003 on Young People and Alcohol, Health in Europe's Capitals, Growing Older in Metropolitan Areas , Peer Review Tools, Socially Disadvantaged Groups and Youth and Young Families have been produced by the network.

The Urban Audit programme (DG REGIO)

There is a growing demand for an assessment of the quality of life in European cities. The Policy Context for the Urban Audit programme stems from the Commission Communication `Towards an urban agenda in the European Union' (1997), the subsequent discussions, and the publication of the `Sustainable Urban Development: an EU framework for action' (1998) which have identified the need for more information about towns and cities in the EU. The Urban Audit is also part of the process of improving Urban Statistics in the EU.

Responsibility for the conception and management of the Urban Audit rests with the Directorate General for Regional Policy in collaboration with EUROSTAT. The overall purpose of the Urban Audit is to enable an assessment to be made of the state of individual EU cities and to provide access to comparative information from other EU cities. It is intended that the process will facilitate the exchange of information between cities. Fifty eight cities were invited by the European Commission to participate in the Urban Audit during the pilot phase. This includes several cities in each EU member state.

A list of indicators was defined in 21 domains, including a certain number of indicators on urban health. For each variable forming part of the indicator a preferred ‘ standard' definition was given. However, the possibility was also provided for minor revisions to be made to the definition if this would make it possible to generate ‘ useable' indicator scores. Full details of the variables making up the indicators and the standard definitions are provided in the Urban Audit Manual.

A system was devised so that the following information could be recorded for each variable used to generate the indication scores: the period to which it refers; any differences from the ‘standard' definition; any differences from the spatial boundary to which the indicator applies: the dataset used to source the information and its characteristics.