Health Hygiene & Sanitation

Lesson 05 : Indicators Of Health


Indicators are necessary to know how healthy a person is, to measure the health status of a community, to compare the health status of one country to another, for assessment of health care needs, for allocation of scarce resources, for monitoring and evaluating of health service activities and programmes and finally to measure the extent to which the objectives and targets of a programme are attained.

What is an Indicator?

Indicators as the name suggest are only an indication of a given situation or reflection of that situation. Indicators are also referred to as variables in WHO guidelines for evaluation of health programmes.

Characteristics of an indicator

An ideal indicator should be

  1. Valid-should measure what it is supposed to measure
  2. Reliable and objective-should provide same answers when measured by different people under similar circumstances
  3. Sensitive-should be sensitive to the changes in the situation concerned.
  4. Specific-should reflect changes only in the situation concerned.
  5. Feasible-should have ability to obtain the needed data.
  6. Relevant-should contribute to the understanding of the phenomenon of interest.

There are a few indicators which meet these characteristics. It is difficult to define health, but is equally difficult to measure health. It is more of a subjective phenomenon. As health is multidimensional in nature, measurement also has to be multidimensional. Hence measurement of health has been planned under various categories.

  1. Illness–lack of health
  2. Consequences of illness-morbidity or disability
  3. Factors that promote ill health, economic, occupational and domestic factors.

Though there are number of indicators a single indicator may not be useful. Instead a profile employing many indicators can be employed for successful measurement of health status.

The indicators can be classified as

  1. Mortality indicators
  2. Morbidity indicators
  3. Disability indicators
  4. Nutritional status indicators
  5. Health care delivery indicators
  6. Utilization rates
  7. Indicators of social and mental health
  8. Environmental indicators
Last modified: Monday, 23 April 2012, 7:26 AM