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Health outcomes include morbidity and mortality; complications of disease or medical care; physical, social, and mental functioning; nutritional status; costs of care (e.g., health economics); use of specified services (e.g., emergency room, rehabilitation services, among others); satisfaction with care or experiences with care; and quality of life.1 Health outcomes research examines the effect on health status from performance (or non-performance) of one or more processes or activities carried out by healthcare providers 2 . Health outcomes research has developed as a means of evaluating the effectiveness of health care interventions and as an approach to informing resource allocation. The use of a health outcomes approach in health promotion has made increasing demands on evaluation methodologies to demonstrate program effectiveness.

When compared to traditional clinical and physiological research, health outcomes research is more comprehensive, has a greater focus on the patient, and measures what is often of greatest concern to the patient. Outcomes researchers look beyond the clinical success or failure of an intervention to define success by the effects of a treatment on various areas of a patient’s life. See Questionnaires and Performance Assessment tools here: [1]

The study of health outcomes is a relatively recent development in the field of health services research. Though it is difficult to place an exact date on its origin, researchers began shifting their attention to health outcomes in the 1970s as a result of a call for an improved health status throughout the world in the Declaration of Alma Ata3 and a broadening of the conceptualisation of health promotion strategies that encompassed social, structural, political and economic conditions related to health through the implementation of the Ottawa Charter4.

Historically, clinicians relied on traditional physiological measures to determine if a health intervention is needed and whether or not that intervention is successful. Researchers have found that by looking only at these measures, they miss many of the outcomes that matter most to the patient and to society. The need for outcomes research was further highlighted when researchers in the early 1980s discovered that certain medical practices were performed much more frequently in some geographical areas than in others, even when there were no differences in underlying rates of disease in the places in question. In addition, there was little information about end results for patients treated using a particular intervention, and traditional clinical measures were often inadequate in determining which procedures were most effective.

Further ReadingEdit


1 Health Outcomes Core Library Project; Order No. P.O. 467-MZ-301222; July 14, 2004. Available from [4]

2 Foundation for Health Services Research. 1992. Health Outcomes Research: A Primer. Washington, DC: Foundation for Health Services Research. Available from [5]

3The National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology, National Library of Medicine World Health Organization (1978) Primary Health Care. Report of the International Conference on Primary Health Care, Alma Ata, USSR, 6±12 September, Health for All Series No. 1. WHO/UNICEF, Geneva.

4World Health Organization (1986) The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion. Health Promotion, 1, 1±5.

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