Human Health and WellnessGPI Technical Report

Publication - Oct. 1, 2001 - By Mark Anielski

This is one of 28 reports that provide the background for the Genuine Progress Indicators (GPI) System of Sustainable Well-being Accounts. It explains how we derived the indices that were earlier published in Sustainability Trends 2000: The Genuine Progress Statement for Alberta, 1961 to 1999. The research for this report was completed near the end of 2000.

This report examines a broad range of issues dealing with human health and wellness. Perhaps the most important desired outcome of individuals in society is a healthy, long life. Measuring health and wellness outcomes is complex, with many possible indicators and determinants of health. These Alberta GPI Accounts are a preliminary first step towards the eventual construction of more comprehensive and integrated human health, social capital and natural capital accounts. The strength of GPI well-being accounts is their flexible, transparent and integrated nature allowing for customization and continuous expansion limited only by data and knowledge. The GPI Alberta system of well-being accounts provides a well-being accounting framework that can manage a comprehensive inventory of health data and indicators to be examined independently or in relationship with trends in the condition of other economic, social, and environmental indicators of well-being.

In this report we limit the indicators to a few significant measures that are commonly used to assess human health and wellness. The Health and Wellness accounts consider the following key indicators (* denotes indicators which are not included in the GPI Account indices and Sustainability Circle. Future GPI accounts could begin to add a fuller list of health and wellness indicators):

  1. life expectancy
  2. premature mortality
  3. disease and chronic illness*
  4. self-rated health*
  5. injuries (auto crashes are considered in a separate report)
  6. suicide
  7. infant mortality
  8. obesity
  9. substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, tobacco)
  10. gambling

At this stage the Alberta GPI Accounts for health and wellness do not incorporate the monetary costs associated with health and wellness, with some exceptions (auto crashes, suicide, and gambling). It is vital to consider the full costs to human health associated with changes in economic, social and environmental conditions. Also important in GPI accounting is the need to distinguish private and public health care spending that contributes to the genuine improved well-being of individuals and communities and those which are defensive and perhaps regrettable expenditures that mitigate against regrettable social, human and natural capital degradation costs. GPI accounts should also attempt to distinguish between preventative health care expenditures from those that deal with a failed health condition after the fact.

Tags:  Alberta, Economy


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