The stated goals of DHHS of the leading health indicator strategy are (1) the identification of a relatively small set of indicators that will reflect the progress that has been made toward reaching the health goals of the nation and (2) to do so in a manner that expands the reach of the initiative to new audiences such as non-health care professionals, opinion leaders, and the general public. The committee interprets these goals to include a promotion of awareness of the challenges to the nation's health so that the actions of numerous diverse parties can be directed toward improving the health of the population as well as provide the basis for the routine assessment of the results of those actions to increase awareness and promote further action. DHHS defines nine essential criteria for the individual leading health indicators and indicator sets:

  1. the general public, opinion leaders, and the health and medical communities can easily interpret and understand the indicators;
  2. they reflect topics that affect the health profile of the nation's population in important ways;
  3. they address a problem that is sensitive to change and has a substantial impact on prospects for the health of the nation's population;
  4. they can be linked to one or more of the full set of Healthy People 2010 objectives;
  5. they are generally reliable measures of the state of the nation's health (or that of a subpopulation) to ensure that the problem is reflective of a broadscope perspective for a significant proportion of the population;
  6. data on the indicators are available from established sources on a regular (at least biennial) basis;
  7. they have multilevel trackability to ensure that data can be anticipated at multiple levels (national, state, local, and community) and for multiple demographic groups;
  8. they are reflective of a balance in the selection of targets that does not overemphasize any one group or health condition;
  9. they have utility in directing public policy and operational initiatives;

The committee believes that these nine criteria are adequate, important, and relevant for the development of a meaningful set of leading health indicators, but in this first interim report it offers suggestions for rewording and expansion of several of the stated criteria. The committee further suggests that the leading health indicators be changeable over a period of time and catalytic in nature to motivate actions across multiple levels of the general population. The committee notes that there are no criteria regarding mechanisms for the dissemination of the leading health indicator sets to the new audiences that it hopes to engage in the Healthy People 2010 program including the general public, communities, businesses, and health professionals outside of the public health community. The committee will expand on its initial review of the criteria and develop specific recommendations, including those for the dissemination of the indicator sets, in the final report. The final report will also include recommendations of two or more sets of indicators for consideration by DHHS and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

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