Intended for healthcare professionals


On target for health?

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 05 February 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:327

Health targets may be valuable, but context is all important

  1. Martin McKee, professor of European public health,
  2. Naomi Fulop, senior lecturer in health services delivery and organisation
  1. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    Twenty years ago asking a health minister what he or she wanted to achieve would probably have elicited a response based on inputs, such as the number of new hospital beds opened or the amount spent on health care. Although some ministers might still give such a response, the focus is shifting to outcomes rather than inputs.

    One feature of this shift is the development of health targets. In 1984 the World Health Organisation's office for Europe launched its 38 targets for “Health for All by the year 2000.”1 These stimulated European countries to reassess their health strategies and, in many cases, to set their own targets for health improvement. The WHO has recently revisited its earlier targets and created a new package with targets, “21 … for the 21st century.”2

    This new policy will probably stimulate countries to reassess their health policies. But 15 years on, what are the lessons? Are health targets a useful component of health policy? What determines …

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