Application of Healthy Life Year Measures to Environmental Health Issues

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Encyclopedia of Environmental Health




Composite summary measures; Disability; Disease burden; Environmental epidemiology; Environmental interventions; Environmental risk factors/hazards; Health consequences; Healthy life years (HeaLYs); Population health


© 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. The environment in which we live greatly affects our health. Everyday hazards in the home environment, at the workplace, and in the outdoor environment pose significant threats to our health and livelihood. However, quantifying this burden has proved challenging due to lack of available data, nonstandardized use of definitions of the environment, disease, and attribution. Therefore, a clear understanding of summary measures of population health is required, which includes the types of measures, the inputs for their construction, and their relative strengths and weaknesses. Composite measures, such as the healthy life year (HeaLY), have the advantage of incorporating the mortality, morbidity, and disability impact of conditions that intersect health and the environment. The HeaLY offers a simple, transparent process, which is consistent with the natural history of disease concept, to measure the environmental burden of disease. However, key to any such effort would be the collection and use of good quality epidemiological, demographic, and causality data. This article, outlines the background to measures of health status in a population, reviews their strengths and limitations, and discusses their use in assessing the consequences of a wide variety of environmental factors and interventions on human health.