Journal Article

Targets in health policy

Louise J. Gunning-Schepers and Loes M. Van Herten

in The European Journal of Public Health

Published on behalf of European Journal of Public Health

Volume 10, issue suppl_4, pages 2-6
Published in print December 2000 | ISSN: 1101-1262
Published online December 2000 | e-ISSN: 1464-360X | DOI:
Targets in health policy

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Economics of Health
  • Health, Illness, and Medicine


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In the 1980s epidemiology was rediscovered by health policy makers and health target setting was introduced. Although it brought back the populations' health as the central goal in health policy, some problems were also identified with the use of targets. First, of course, the political risk of being so explicit in a field where one does not control all the relevant determinants. Secondly, problems were encountered in terms of epidemiological methodology and data availability. However, the fact that in some countries targets could be sustained over several cabinets shows that they may also help to keep health policy on a steady course. In addition, public health epidemiology and public health models have since provided many of the tools necessary to set realistic targets and to translate the results of epidemiological research adequately into estimates of the potential health benefits of alternative interventions. Not long ago the World Health Organisation (WHO) presented its new generation of targets, in its policy ‘Health for All in the 21st Century’. With these targets the WHO has once again chosen to put social justice and the public's health high on the health policy agenda. It is to be hoped that the progress which has been made with the methodology of public health epidemiology and the necessary data for the member states in the next Global Burden of Disease project will allow for the use of these targets in the core of policy making, the priority setting of resource allocation.

Keywords: health policy; health targets; public health epidemiology

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Economics of Health ; Health, Illness, and Medicine

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