Affiliations: Westat, 1600 Research Blvd., Rockville, MD 20850, USA. E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: Most countries collect data on health in their population surveys.
Although administrative data are of growing importance as a source of health
statistics in developed countries, surveys are likely to remain the major data
source in all countries for the foreseeable future. This paper reviews the
methodology for a range of population health surveys, discusses the challenges
in obtaining accurate data in this field, and outlines some areas of current
development. The subject matter of population health surveys broadly
encompasses physical and mental health, dental health, disabilities, substance
abuse, health risk factors, nutrition, health promotion, health care
utilization and quality, health coverage, and costs. Some surveys focus on
specific health conditions, whereas others aim to obtain an overall health
assessment. Health is often an important component in longitudinal surveys.
Information about health can be collected in health surveys by respondents'
reports, by medical examinations, by the collection of biological measures, and
from administrative records. The accuracy of respondent-reported information
about many health conditions is a serious concern. Logistical issues, costs,
and respondent cooperation are important considerations when the information is
collected by medical examinations. Ethical and privacy issues are often
important, particularly when DNA and biomarkers are involved. Two issues of
growing importance are the international comparability of health measures and
the production of health measures for local areas.
Keywords: Health measurement scales, biomarkers, longitudinal surveys, medical examinations, disability, mental health