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Developing the Health Index for England: 2015 to 2018

3 December 2020

In her 2018 annual report, the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies proposed that the government develop a Health Index for England. She stated that the aim was to capture ‘the multi-faceted determinants of the population’s health and equity in support of ensuring health is recognised and treated as one of our nation’s primary assets.’ The government later included this commitment in its green paper on prevention in July 2019.

Launch of the index

On 3 December 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) launched the Health Index for England, with the first release covering the period 2015 to 2018. The index measured 56 indicators spanning three domains: healthy people, healthy places and healthy lives. The indicators covered health outcomes such as health conditions, risk factors such as health-related behaviours and personal circumstances, and the wider determinants of health relating to the places people live. The measures were designed to help track how health changes over time, at a national and local level, and to examine what is driving these changes.

The ONS developed the Health Index to improve population health by putting forward a broader concept of health and tracking changes in the health of the nation over time. It also aimed to improve understanding of the drivers of health for different groups. The initial version of the index was experimental, with the goal of improving it over time. It found that overall health in England had remained broadly stable between 2016 and 2017 but declined in 2018 to below 2015 levels.

Later developments

On 18 March 2022, the ONS released an update to the Health Index for England covering the period from 2015 to 2019. It indicated that, before the COVID-19 pandemic, health in England as measured by the index remained broadly stable.


Office for National Statistics.
Developing the Health Index for England: 2015 to 2018 [webpage].
Office for National Statistics; 2020. 

Department of Health and Social Care.
Chief Medical Officer annual report 2018: better health within reach.
gov.uk; 2018. 

Office for National Statistics.
Health in England: 2015 to 2019 [webpage].
Office for National Statistics; 2022.