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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Public Health  

Paul Unschuld

In many countries, Traditional Chinese Medicine has acquired a status similar to other historical healthcare systems that are not at all or only partially legitimated by modern science, such as Ayurveda and homeopathy. They all contribute in one way or another to the health of the public. And yet, Chinese medicine eludes inclusion in modern, global public health concepts. Its focus on the individual patient-healer relationship, its diverse non-Chinese terminologies, often developed by individuals regardless of the historical meaning of the original Chinese terms, and an increasingly uncoordinated development of TCM in China and the rest of the world, with heterogenous educational standards resulting in very different skill levels of practitioners, make it impossible to draw far-reaching conclusions and contribute generalizable suggestions for the continued improvement of global public health.

Article

Using Large Data Sets to Measure Health Status and Service Use of Older Adults  

Kimberly E. Lind and Magdalena Z. Raban

Commonly used data sources for measuring health status and service use of older adults include national surveys and secondary data analysis of electronic data sources including healthcare claims data and electronic health records (EHRs). Depending on how the data are generated in EHRs and medical claims, and depending on how long people are observed for, the ability to measure prevalence or incidence of chronic conditions and the ability to measure incidence or a history of acute conditions will vary. Various data types spanning standardized data (diagnostic codes, procedure codes), medication administered or prescribed, unstructured free text such as clinical notes, and clinical assessment data can all be used to measure health status and service use. Different data sources and types of variables have different benefits and limitations depending on how data are generated and the incentives for those recording data (i.e., healthcare providers and billing staff) to be complete. Testing assumptions and exploring the validity of measures can be accomplished by approaches such as comparing agreement of measures (e.g., disease prevalence) across data tables within a data source, comparing agreement with linked data sources, and comparing rates of disease or service use to rates in data sources that have similar populations. Future directions for administrative data such as data linkage and natural language processing will improve the utility of administrative data. The information and concepts are broadly applicable, but for illustrative purposes, examples of how these approaches have been applied to electronic data from administrative records including EHRs and claims data to fill important knowledge gaps and measure health status and quality of care from Australia and the United States are presented.

Article

Well-Being Economics  

Paul Dalziel and Trudi Cameron

A strong social gradient in the experience of health means that a person’s health tends to reflect social position. There is strong evidence that average health outcomes in a country tend to be poorer when income inequality is greater. Consequently, public health policy is influenced by a country’s economic situation. Adopting principles in the Helsinki Statement on Health in All Policies, this means governments should pay attention to the public health implications of its economic policies, moving beyond simple analyses of how policy might support growth in gross domestic product. Since 2009, a global movement has aimed to shift the emphasis of economic policy evaluation from measuring economic production to measuring people’s well-being. This approach is known as well-being economics. Many countries have engaged with citizens to create their own national well-being framework of statistical indicators. Some countries have passed legislation or designed new institutions to focus specific policy areas on promoting the well-being of current and future generations. A small number of countries are attempting to embed well-being in their core economic policies. Further policy work and research are required for the vision of a well-being economy to be realized.