“Health data are essential for monitoring the health of the population and for evaluating the effects of health interventions. Yet the information collected nationally is often poor and there is no regular mechanism by which a PCT or LA can gather reliable information on its own population.” Wanless (2004).
In England there are at least 24 different sets of health indicators and databases but no consistent countrywide health profiles. The government white paper “Choosing Health: Making Healthy Choices Easier” stated: ‘Public Health Observatories will produce reports designed for local communities at local authority level which will support Directors of Public Health in promoting health in their area. The first of these reports will be published in 2006 and we will also publish the first national report in that year.’
The Association of Public Health Observatories was commissioned by the Department of Health in 2005 to produce Health Profiles. The first batch of profiles was produced in 2006, for all but 2 of the 388 local authorities in England (County, District, Unitary and London Borough). The updated and improved Health Profiles 2007 were released in June 2007. The White Paper ‘Choosing Health’ also included the commitment to publish a national ‘Health Profile of England’ and this was published in 2006 with an update in 2007 (the 2007 Health Profile for England is available here, with the older 2006 Health Profile for England available here).
The aims of the profiles are:
- To provide a consistent, concise, comparable and balanced overview of the population’s health that informs local needs assessment, policy, planning, performance management, surveillance and practice.
- To be a distillate of the absolutely key, most useful (currently available) indicators (with a reference to new data/indicators and unavailable data/indicators).
- To be primarily of use to joint efforts between local government and the health service to improve health and reduce health inequalities, but ultimately to empower the wider community
- The local authority Health Profiles for England were produced in April 2006. The profiles are available in both web based (pdf) and hard copy reports. The audience includes healthcare and public health professionals and local authority members and officers. The profiles describe the health of the local population and enable comparison local, regionally and nationally as well as over time. It is hoped that they will be used for action planning by local strategic partnerships.
An evaluation of the first Health Profiles was undertaken in the autumn of 2006. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to their content and format. It was clear that the majority of respondents felt that the Health Profiles did “what it says on the label” by providing a unique summary of local authority based health and health inequality information that is both accessible and understandable. The Health Profiles were generally found to be useful documents and considered helpful for local prioritisation work and partnership working. In particular they are highly valued by those working in local authorities who may struggle to get access to data that are seen as being owned by the NHS.
Changes in Health Profiles 2007
Health Profiles 2007 are a recognisable development from the prototype of 2006. The changes for Health Profiles 2007 have been based upon a number of strands of work including:
- Evaluation of Health Profiles 2006
- Review of stakeholder feedback and comments received during the
development and after release of Health Profiles 2006
- Advice from technical staff in Public Health Observatories in
The 4 page format is the same. Of the 30 indicators in the health summary 21 are the same or have minor modifications, 5 are new improved indicators and 5 continue to be gaps (one less than last year). Data for all indicators has been updated where new data is available. The design of the profiles has been improved with simplified graphics.
Input to the design process was aided through consultation with a consumer panel which included local authority members. (Further information about the indicators can be found here).