Background: Within the EU Health Monitoring Programme (HMP), the ECHI project has proposed a comprehensive list of ‘European Community Health Indicators’. Methods: In the design of the indicator set, a set of explicit criteria was applied. These included: i) be comprehensive and coherent, i.e. cover all domains of the public health field; ii) take account of earlier work, especially that by WHO-Europe, OECD and Eurostat; and iii) cover the priority areas that Member States and Community health policies currently pursue. Flexibility is an important characteristic of the present proposal. In ECHI, this has been emphasized by the definition of ‘user-windows’. These are subsets from the overall indicator list, each of which should reflect a specific user's requirement or interest. Results: The proposed indicators are, in most cases, defined as generic indicators, i.e. their actual operational definitions have not yet been attempted. This work has been, and is being carried out to a large part by other projects financed under the HMP, which cover specific areas of public health or areas of data collection. Apart from indicators covered by regularly available data, indicators (or issues) have been proposed for which data are currently difficult to collect but which from a policy point of view would be needed. Conclusion: All this points to the fact that establishing an indicator list which is actually used by Member States is a continuously developing process. This process is now continued by the first strand of the new EU Public Health Action Programme.
EU, health determinants, health policy, health status, health systems, indicators, public health