the need for policy or other interventions early and, if implemented, avoid potential long-term negative consequences.
Good measurement systems also allow comparison within and across jurisdictions. They facilitate identification of specific geographic areas where health problems are concentrated. The establishment of state and local data systems allows these areas to compare their progress with that of other comparable areas and to identify areas that need improvement. Finally, good data systems at the local, state, and national levels provide early evidence of failures and successes so that more rapid and more targeted modifications can be made in interventions and public policies.
In 2000, Congress responded to concerns raised about risks to children’s health by directing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1 to fund a study by the National Academies. Congress requested the National Academies to conduct “an evaluation on children’s health [that would] assess the adequacy of currently available methods for assessing risks to children, identify scientific uncertainties associated with these methods, and develop a prioritized research agenda to reduce such uncertainties and improve risk assessment for children’s health and safety.”
The Board on Children, Youth, and Families of the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine in consultation with the Department of Health and Human Services and expert advisers developed a statement of task that expanded this basic charge. The Committee on Evaluation of Children’s Health: Measures of Risk, Protective, and Promotional Factors for Assessing Child Health in the Community was formed to examine key issues regarding the definition and measurement of children’s health, influences that affect children’s health, and the optimal use of data on children’s health. Specifically, the committee was charged with considering these questions:
How is children’s health defined? Are these definitions appropriate? If not, what is an appropriate definition of children’s health?
What data and methods are being used to assess and monitor children’s health at the federal, state, and local levels? Are these data and methods adequate and appropriate? If not, what types of data and methods are needed and what are the strategies for their development and application? How could new technologies be used to link individual, family, community, and clinical data to assess and monitor children’s health? What are the technical challenges and limitations for linking such data?