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Health-adjusted life expectancy at the local level in Ontario

Manuel DG, Goel V, Williams JI, Corey P. Chronic Dis Can. 2000; 21(2):73-80.


Health expectancy measures are becoming a common method of combining information on mortality and health-related quality of life into one summary population health measure. However, health expectancy measures are infrequently measured at the local level, despite a shift toward health service planning to that level. Using a modified Sullivan method, the health-adjusted life expectancy (HALE) for the 42 public health units in Ontario was calculated using life tables that were derived from mortality and population data for 1988 to 1992 and the Health Utilities Index from the 1990 Ontario Health Survey. There were large variations among health units in HALE at age 15 for both men (range: 51.3-58.2 years) and women (range: 56.6-62.9 years). Generally, rural and northern areas had the lowest HALE. Local differences in male HALE were greater than for life expectancy (7.1 versus 6.0 years). Despite a relatively large health survey (45,583 respondents, range: 729-1,746 per health unit), few HALE differences deviated significantly from the Ontario mean, raising concerns about the feasibility of estimating local health expectancy measures with adequate precision. Nevertheless, the wider local differences and different geographic distribution of local HALE compared with mortality measures, along with the additional benefit of being able to model the complex interaction of mortality and morbidity, suggest that HALE may be a useful population health measure.

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Keywords: Research and statistical methods Health care evaluation

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