Notes on the characteristics and types of Health Indicators



Health indicators

Indicators are required to assess the health of a community and also to compare the health status of one community with the other. Also they are required to monitor and evaluate the success of health services and health programmes.

Characteristics of indicators

An ideal health indicator should be valid, reliable, sensitive and specific.

Valid: it must measure what it is supposed to measure.

Reliable: the answer should be the same if measured by different people.

Sensitive: they should show variations in different situations.

4. Specific: Changes must occur only in the situation concerned.

Types of indicators

A number of indicators are used for the assessment of health. The important indicators of health are:


Mortality indicators


morbidity indicators


disability rates


nutritional status indicators


health care delivery indicators


environmental indicators

7. social and mental health indicators

8. utilization rates

9. socio - economic indicators

10. Others

1. Mortality indicators:

Frequency of death (death rate) is an important indicator of health in a community. Of the various mortality rates, crude death rate is the frequently used index. It is calculated by the following formula:

Crude death rate = Number of deaths in a year ^ Mid-year population The other death rates used are infant mortality rate, child mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, proportional mortality rate and disease specific mortality rate.

2. Morbidity indicators:

The occurrence of disease is also an indicator of health. The various morbidity indicators are incidence rate, prevalence rate, notification rate, hospital attendance, admission and discharge rate etc.

3. Disability rates:

These include days of restricted activity, bed disability days and work loss days.

4 Nutritional status indicators:

They are measurements of height, weight and mid-arm circumference.

5. Health care delivery indicators:

They are doctor - population ratio, doctor - nurse ratio, population - bed ratio


6. Environmental indicators:

They include proportion of the population who get safe water, and also indicators relating to pollution of air, light and water.

7. Social and mental health indicators:

Suicides, homicides, smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse.

8. Utilisation rates:

Percentage of immunised children and mothers, bed occupancy rate, length of hospital stay, percentage of people using family planning methods etc.

9. Socio -

Economic indicators: Rate of population increase, literacy rate, family size, housing etc.

10. Others:

They are health policy indicators, social indicators, basic needs indicators and health for all indicators.