In June 2008 the Canadian Policy Research Network and Ontario Trillium Foundation held a roundtable of government and business leaders on indicators to measure and help guide planning for healthy and vibrant communities. A useful primer and range of presentations have been published.
It is certainly vital that there is widespread community discussion of the kinds of indicators needed to adequately reflect the incredible diversity and challenges of current populations, and help shape planning and monitor progress on reducing health disparities, reducing poverty, enhancing the social resilience of communities, enhancing health opportunities and outcomes for particular disadvantaged populations and other key objectives. Experience has not always been productive: community service providers have to report an enormous amount of data to government and other funders, and the data has seldom been used to actually monitor progress and guide planning. In policy development terms, the search for perfect data and indicators can delay actually moving on key areas where there is clear consensus. Nonetheless, this is a vital issue: communities, service providers and funders all want to be able to assess what kinds of interventions work most effectively and to know that their activities are making a difference. This roundtable provides useful material for this key challenge.