The Health Index 2020 – measuring the nation’s health (2024)

Today the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published the Health Index 2020 for England, which gives a rich insight into how the nation's health has changed.

These data allow users to take a deep dive into the aspects that affect the health of both individuals and communities, and to understand whether these might be getting better or worse.

The Health Index is split into three categories (or domains), which describe health in its broadest terms: Healthy People, Healthy Lives and Healthy Places.

These domains can be further broken down to focus on health topics (or subdomains), such as mental health, and economic and working conditions. These subdomains consist of a set of specific measures such as obesity, alcohol misuse and air pollution.

Each aspect is given a score indexed around 100 (which uses health in 2015 as a reference point) and users can see health scores at national, regional, local authority and integrated care system levels. The data show how health has improved or declined over time, how this varies by area and what is driving this.

What the Health Index 2020 shows

  • Overall, the Health Index score for England in 2020 declined to 100.1 when compared with 100.5 in 2019; however, there was variation in the constituent domains.

  • The Healthy People score declined considerably in 2020 compared with 2019, from 99.6 to 95.4; this was driven by considerably worse personal well-being levels, higher mortality and worse mental health.

  • The Healthy Lives score declined in 2020, from 102.0 to 101.4; within this there was a varied picture, for example, there was a decrease in physical activity and an improvement in healthy eating.

  • Healthy Places improved in 2020, from 99.7 to 103.4; this was driven by reductions in crime and improvements in living conditions, a number of these changes were linked to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, for example, reductions in air pollution.

Emma Rourke, Interim Deputy National Statistician (Health, Population and Methods) at the ONS said:

"The index shows how health changed in 2020 during the early stages of the pandemic. We can see that there was an improvement in the Healthy Places domain due in part to factors such as better air quality, fewer road accidents and less crime impact. This was likely driven by the need for people to stay at home at this time. However, the score for the Healthy People category declined considerably, which reflects the impact the pandemic had on mental health and well-being.

"One of our key aims is for the Health Index to become a trusted tool for informing health strategy, in the same way GDP data informs understanding of the economy.

"Today's data enables decision makers to explore whether health trends are persistent, improving or deteriorating. We expect to publish the Health Index 2021 within the next six months and this will give us an even deeper understanding of health and health outcomes at national, regional and local level."

The ONS has also published an online article helping people to explore the Health Index for their locality. How health has changed in your local area features a tool enabling people to select an area and produce an automated report.

Commenting on today's Health Index release, Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, said:

"Data that allow us to track progress in improving health at national, regional and local levels are very important in improving health. By gathering information on health challenges we are better placed to respond to them. Then data allow us to see whether interventions have worked, and alter, end or extend them.

"We know there is a stark variation in health across the country when comparing different areas and more granular data will better equip health partners to work together to improve health for everybody, now and in the longer term.

"I strongly support efforts to provide more detail across a wide range of healthcare indicators."

Jim McManus, President of the Association of Directors of Public Health, said:

"The Health Index is an invaluable tool for directors of public health as it provides them with a unique overview of their local population's health. Not only can they use the stats it gives to compare and track the impact of their policies and programmes, but they are also able to really target their work and decide which health initiatives are needed where in order to improve people's health – allowing people to live longer, healthier lives."

The ONS has also collaborated with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to develop a local Heath Index, which will be a valuable tool to gain more detailed insight into inequalities at a more local level and plan healthcare provision. It will also help the trust's Health Inequalities Programme board to explore the health challenges and other social and environmental factors that impact on health, which will allow them to shape and prioritise their health goals based on local needs.

As well as working with the ONS team, Northumbria Healthcare also worked with Northumberland County Council and North Tyneside Council to develop the local Health Index framework. As demonstrated in its development, the tool will further encourage collaborative working between healthcare and health-related organisations at a much more local level across the population.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust's chief executive, Sir James Mackey, said:

"The development of the local Health Index is testament to the power of collaborative working. It also clearly demonstrates our trust's commitment to tackle health inequalities, continually improve the services and care we provide to our patients and improve the health and well-being of the local communities we serve.

"Having the ability to understand in detail how and why health differs between different communities across our patch gives us very valuable and powerful insight allowing us to help improve peoples' lives and target healthcare interventions where they are most needed.

"This information will allow health leaders, clinicians and other partners to have informed and real-time discussions about health. I would like to thank everyone involved in helping to develop the local index and look forward to further developing its use."

To learn more about the Northumbria Local Health Index project see Northumbria Local Health Index: Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Welcoming today's publication, Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard, Chair of the Royal Society for Public Health, said:

"Health drives prosperity nationally and locally. The ONS Health Index recognises health as an asset and enables tracking of composite health, rather than just illness, in order to see variations across the country in a more granular way. We know that health needs of the population vary substantially and the Health Index allows us to identify which areas, from health outcomes, risk factors to the wider determinants of health, have the largest contributions to inequalities. This framework could inform more targeted interventions to both improve the population's health and reduce inequalities in a timely and effective way."

Sarah Sweeney is Interim Chief Executive at National Voices, a coalition of over 200 health and care charities. Commenting on today's release, she said:

"We welcome the launch of the Health Index for England: 2015 to 2020. Our health is affected not only by the quality of care we can access, but also by the air we breathe, our income level, access to work opportunities and much more. We hope that the Index will help national and local government and our health systems, to think in a more joined up and holistic way about health, and to work in more upstream ways to prevent poor health and inequality."

The Health Foundation is an independent health and care charity, and Assistant Director Gwen Nightingale, said:

"The ONS Health Index is a practical tool that shines a spotlight on the many factors that influence health. Good health is one of the nation's primary assets, and the Index provides leaders with authoritative information to inform local plans to improve health.

"The Index also provides a common language to talk about health, and this is why we would like to see central government departments using the Health Index to describe progress and understand the local picture."

To read more about the Health Index and how this work will be developed, you can read our blog post The Health Index 2020 – measuring the nation’s health.


Note to editor

The estimates in the Health Index are experimental data and still under development. Data for 2020 are missing for some indicators because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This means some changes in 2020 may not be reflected. To read more about the methodology see the Health Index methods and development article. For further detail about the domains and indicators used in the Health Index see Health Index indicators and definitions.

Read the case study A blueprint for a Local Health Index (PDF, 838 kB) about our collaboration with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust where we used the Health Index tool to create a local experimental version, the Northumbria Local Health Index.

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The Health Index 2020 – measuring the nation’s health (2024)


What does the Health Index measure? ›

The Health Index measures health at local authority, regional and national levels. It also enables comparison between geographic areas, health topics and combinations of the two over time.

What is the health score index? ›

The health index measures the extent to which people are healthy and have access to the necessary services to maintain good health, including health outcomes, health systems, illness and risk factors, and mortality rates.

What is the National Health Index? ›

About National Health Index

The National Health Index number (NHI number) is a unique number that is assigned to each person who receives healthcare in New Zealand.

How do we measure health? ›

There are many ways to measure wellness

For example, objective measurements include blood biomarkers and physical metrics, whereas subjective assessments utilize questionnaires to consider psychological affect, happiness, and satisfaction in personal, social, spiritual, and work-related realms.

What is the healthy Index score? ›

An ideal overall HEI score of 100 suggests that the set of foods reported is in line with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (Dietary Guidelines) key recommendations. The average HEI-Toddlers-2020 score is 63 out of 100 (Lerman, et al, 2023).

What is the best Health Index? ›

In 2023, Singapore dominated the ranking of the world's health and health systems, followed by Japan and South Korea.

What is the normal Health Index? ›

Adult Body Mass Index or BMI

Or determine your BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart. If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the Healthy Weight range. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range.

What country is number 1 in health? ›

The Best Healthcare Systems in the World in 2024

What country has the best healthcare, according to this assessment? Singapore comes in at No. 1! Other countries with the best healthcare are listed below.

What is public health index? ›

Indices are used in health service research, epidemiological surveys, clinical trials, and also to diagnose disease and monitor the progress of treatment in individual patients. An index may be classified as reversible or irreversible, based on the direction in which its scores can fluctuate.

How to tell if an economy is healthy? ›

The growth rate of real GDP is often used as an indicator of the general health of the economy. In broad terms, an increase in real GDP is interpreted as a sign that the economy is doing well.

What is better than GDP? ›

Gross National Income

GNI is a helpful metric to consider simply by virtue of the fact that it provides an alternative perspective to that provided by GDP and can, therefore, aid analysts in obtaining a more complete picture of total economic activity.

What are healthcare indexes What is the purpose of each? ›

Medical records indexing is the process of organizing and categorizing medical records so that they can be easily searched, retrieved and analyzed. Medical records contain a wide range of information about a patient's health history, such as their medical diagnoses, treatments, medications, etc.

What is the normal health index? ›

Adult Body Mass Index or BMI

Or determine your BMI by finding your height and weight in this BMI Index Chart. If your BMI is less than 18.5, it falls within the underweight range. If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it falls within the Healthy Weight range. If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it falls within the overweight range.

What does the Social Health Index measure? ›

The Index of Social Health is a composite of 16 measures that gauge the social well-being of the nation. it includes things such as rates of infant mortality, the number of high school dropouts, and the unemployment rate.

What does the human wellbeing index measure? ›

The index links the results of subjective life-satisfaction surveys—how happy people say they are—to objective determinants of the quality of life across countries.


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