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Professional Version

National Public Health Indicators


Donald L. Noah

, DVM, DACVPM, College of Veterinary Medicine and DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University;

Stephanie R. Ostrowski

, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University

Medically Reviewed May 2015 | Modified Nov 2022

Unfortunately, there are no direct measurements of public health in a population. Therefore, it is difficult to compare overarching changes over time or against other populations, except with surrogates such as surveillance for specific diseases/events and specific population attributes. Accepted among many public health officials is some combination of the following national health indicators: 1) life expectancy at birth (years)—the average number of years that a newborn could expect to live, if he or she were to pass through life exposed to the sex- and age-specific death rates prevailing at the time of his or her birth; 2) infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)—the probability of a child born in a specific year dying before reaching the age of 1 yr; 3) age-standardized mortality rate (number/unit population)—a weighted average of the age-specific (ages 30–70) mortality rates per 100,000 persons, in which the weights are the proportions of persons in the corresponding age groups of the WHO standard population; 4) childhood immunization rate (%)—the percentage of children (19–35 mo old) who have received the recommended combined vaccine series; 5) annual population growth rate (%)—average exponential rate of annual growth of the population over a given time period; 6) density of physicians (number/unit population)—number of medical doctors (physicians), including generalist and specialist practitioners, per 10,000 persons; 7) gross national income per capita ($USD)—total annual purchasing power, standardized to the US dollar; 8) government expenditure on health as a percentage of total government expenditure (%); 9) per capita total expenditure on health ($USD); 10) population median age (years); 11) obesity (%)—adults (>20 yr old) who have a body mass index (BMI) ≥30 kg/m2.

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