Internationally Comparable Health Indices
Published in: Health Economics, June 2010
Posted on RAND.org on June 01, 2010
One of the most intractable problems in international health research is the lack of comparability of health measures across countries or cultures. We develop a cross-country measurement model for health, in which functional limitations, self-reports of health, and a physical measure are interrelated to construct health indices. To establish comparability across countries, we define the measurement scales by the physical measure while other parameters vary by country to reflect cultural and linguistic differences in response patterns. We find significant cross-country variation in response styles of health reports along with variability in genuine health that is related to differences in national income. Our health indices achieve satisfactory reliability of about 80% and their gradients by age, income, and wealth for the most part show the expected patterns. Moreover, the health indices correlate much more strongly with income and net worth than self-reported health measures.