Public Health Health Measurement Scales
by
F. Douglas Scutchfield, Alex F. Howard, Robert M. Shapiro
  • LAST REVIEWED: 15 June 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 February 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0045

Introduction

“What gets measured gets done,” as the old adage says. The measurement of health and health status is a key to success in public health and medical practice. In fact, all science is based on our ability to measure and calibrate things. Lemuel Shattuck is an icon in public health, largely as the result of his efforts at influencing the collection of vital statistics data in Massachusetts, the first efforts in the United States to attempt to understand disease patterns and to have information that would allow communities to work to solve community health problems. While his work in the early 1800s marks one end of the spectrum of disease measurement, a more recent key is the work that began in the 1980s, attempting to set a series of measurable objectives in health promotion and disease prevention for the nation, which have been updated every decade. Measurement of health was key in the beginning public health movement in the United States and is vital to our continued effort to achieve improved community health status.

General Overviews

Health measurement scales are those tools and items used to collect and analyze data regarding health indicators and outcomes to evaluate health status of both individuals and populations. In this section, entries provide background information regarding health-measurement scales and well as including examples of various scales. McDowell 2002 and Kane 2005 provide a defined role for measurement scales and their use in healthcare. The development of appropriate scales and subsequent analysis of these scales is covered in detail by McDowell 2006, Bowling 1997, and Panagiotakos 2009. The Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce website provides users with an extensive listing of web links that provide general information about health-measurement scales. This website also provides links to health-measurement tools and resources that can be used to collect data regarding health indicators and to analyze various health indicators.

  • Bowling, Ann. 1997. Measu ring health: A review of quality of life measurement scales. 2d ed. Philadelphia: Open Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    This text provides a guide to measure health and functioning. Also included is a listing of various scales available for use with the measurement of health outcomes.

  • Kane, Robert L. 2005. Understanding health care outcomes research. 2d ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

    E-mail Citation »

    This textbook provides a comprehensive overview of health care outcomes research. Topics include measurement scales as well as choosing meaningful health outcomes.

  • McDowell, Ian. 2002. Health measurement scales. In Encyclopedia of Public Health. New York: Macmillan Reference.

    E-mail Citation »

    This entry in the online Encyclopedia of Public Health provides a general overview of what health measurement scales are and what their purpose is. Also, this entry illustrates the difference between medical measurement scales and those scales focused on population-health measures and outcomes.

  • McDowell, Ian. 2006. Measuring health: A guide to rating scales and questionnaires. 3d ed. Oxford medical publications. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    E-mail Citation »

    McDowell’s textbook provides an overview and how-to-use guide for more than one hundred currently used health measurement scales. The scales included have been used in health care settings ranging from clinical measurements to population-based health outcome measures.

  • Panagiotakos, D. 2009. Health measurement scales: Methodological issues. Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal 3:160–165.

    DOI: 10.2174/1874192400903010160E-mail Citation »

    Panagiotakos’s article provides an overview of the role of measurement scales used in health care and the many challenges that are inherent to their use. The methodological issues discussed in this article relate to the development and subsequent analysis of health scales.

  • Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce.

    E-mail Citation »

    The Partners in Information Access for the Public Health Workforce website offers several links to websites, databases, and reference materials related to health-outcome assessment, health-measurement scales, and health-measurement tools.

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