Indicators help to understand the scope of a problem and assess the impact of actions. For Structural Funds, this means measuring performance against health outcomes and reductions in health inequalities.

The 2007-2013 Cohesion Policy guidelines and the proposed regulations for 2014-2020 define three types of indicators that should be included in programmes.

  • - Financial indicators – what expenditure has been allocated?
  • - Output indicators – what operations are supported?
  • - Result indicators relating to the priority – what has been the immediate effect on programme beneficiaries?

Financial and output indicators can be measured in physical or monetary units. Result indicators provide information on changes in behaviour, capacity, etc and can be physical or financial. They can be quantitative or qualitative.

The Cohesion Policy guidelines also refer to impact indicators. These address the consequences of the programme beyond the immediate effects. While not a legal requirement, they strengthen the case for certain strategic decisions.

Existing indicator sets

EUROSTAT is the Statistical Office of the European Communities with the ‘task to provide the European Union with statistics at European level that enable comparisons between countries and regions'. The causal pathways, the stages Driving ForcePressureState and Exposure, will draw upon these indicators:

The health outcome stage of the causal pathways can draw on the European Community Health Indicators (ECHI). This include:

  • - demography and socio-economic situation;
  • - health status;
  • - determinants of health [we discuss determinants of health elsewhere on this site – note that the ECHI focus on individual - characteristics];
  • - health interventions: health services; and
  • - health interventions: health promotion.

Chiotan and Costongs (2010) have produced a useful review which examines ECHI and other data sets and which also looks at some of the challenges posed by these different data sets.

Things to bear in mind

First - indicators only give part of the picture so they need to be chosen carefully. In most cases, health outcomes will not be solely attributable to the Structural Fund projects or programmes. For example, investments to increase the use of bicycles, walking and public transport in urban areas will have health benefits, but such investments will be only one factor for better health.

Second - time scales: the health benefits from Structural Fund investments are likely to be seen over a long period, beyond that of the spending cycle.

Third - geography: while Structural Fund actions may focus on a specific target group or geographical area, health and environmental indicators may only be available at a wider scale, such as the region as a whole.

The sources in this page can be found in References.