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Health assessments for health governance — concepts and methodologies.

Fehr, R., Alexanderson, K., Favaretti, C., Jong, J. de, Torre, G. La, Lim, T.A., Martin-Olmedo, P., Mekel, O.C.L., Michelsen, K., Rosenkötter, N., Verschuuren, M., Waure, C. de, Zeegers-Paget, D. Health assessments for health governance — concepts and methodologies. European Journal of Public Health: 2017, 27(4), 609-616
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Background
For better supporting the science-governance interface, the potential of health assessments appears underrated.

Aims
To identify what various types of health assessment have in common; how they differ; which assessment(s) to apply for which purpose; and what needs and options there are for future joint development.

Methods
This review is based on five types of health assessment: monitoring/surveillance/reporting, assessment of health impact, of health technology, of health systems performance, health-related economic assessment. The approach is exploratory and includes: applying an agreed set of comparative criteria; circulating and supplementing synoptic tables; and interpreting the results.

Results
Two of the assessments deal with the question ‘Where do we stand?’, two others with variants of ‘What if’ questions. Economic Assessment can take place in combination with any of the others. The assessments involve both overall ‘procedures’ and a variety of ‘methods’ which inescapably reflect some subjective assumptions and decisions, e.g. on issue framing. Resources and assistance exist for all these assessments. The paper indicates which type of assessment is appropriate for what purpose.

Conclusions
Although scientific soundness of health assessments is not trivial to secure, existing types of health assessment can be interpreted as a useful ‘toolkit’ for supporting governance. If current traces of ‘silo’ thinking can be overcome, the attainability of a more unified culture of health assessments increases and such assessments might more widely be recognized as a prime, ‘tried and tested’ way to voice Public Health knowledge and to support rational governance and policy-making.