Indicators of children's development: considerations when constructing a set of national Child Health Indicators for the European Union


Lennart Köhler, Nordic School of Public Health, Box 121 33, SE-402 42 Göteborg, Sweden


Background  In a recent project, commissioned by the European Union, a set of Child Health Indicators were identified and recommended for use in all Member States. In that work, by a group of European experts, children's development was one of the key areas that were reviewed to clarify its role in this set of indicators. This paper deals with neurological (in a broad sense), social and moral aspects of development; other aspects, such as nutrition and physical growth, mental health, quality of life were dealt with in other areas.

Methods  A number of methods are used to monitor children's neurodevelopment, to identify early deviations that could be treated or alleviated. Few tests fulfil basic criteria of screening and quality of evidence. For Child Health Programmes, developmental surveillance is instead recommended. As a proxy to social development, as part of children's process of adaptation into society, education indicators are recommended, such as suggested by OECD and UNICEF. Moral development is discarded as an indicator, because norms and values vary too much between countries.

Conclusion  For now the Child Health Indicators of Life and Development Project found no ground to recommend any particular method or combination of methods for a general monitoring of children's neurological, intellectual, language and moral development, and for including the results as national indicators of children's health and well-being in EU. For social development, indicators in the educational area seem most promising, as they have been proposed and used by OECD and UNESCO. In an ambitious monitoring programme, these indicators could be included as determinants of children's health and development.