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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

National Public Health Indicators

By Donald L. Noah, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Associate Professor, Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Midwestern University ; Stephanie R. Ostrowski, DVM, MPVM, DACVPM, Department of Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn University

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.