Perceived health status in a comparative perspective: Methodological limitations and policy implications for Israel

Baruch Levi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The perceived health status indicator included in the OECD Health Statistics suffers from severe methodological limitations related to data collection. Furthermore, this indicator is also included in the OECD's Better Life Index, thus distorting the total health score of some OECD countries, among them Israel. The purpose of this paper is to explore the erroneous use of OECD health data in Israel and to warn of its implications. Methods: Analysis of data from the OECD Health Database, Better Life Index and the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, review of media reports and governmental documents concerning health measures, conversations and correspondence held with officials in the relevant organizations. Results: OECD's perceived health status outcomes for Israel are biased upwards, resulting also in an upward bias of the Israeli overall health grade in the Better Life Index. This is due to the methodological differences between the OECD's standard survey questionnaire and the Israeli one. Yet, erroneous comparisons constantly appear in governmental documents and media reports, presenting health status in Israel in an excessive positive light. Conclusions: Data from the OECD Health Statistics and the Better Life Index are reaching policy makers and the public in a manner that potentially distorts professional and political discourse on health. This may lead to a decrease in the resources allocated to health based on a flawed comparison. In the long run, and no less serious, the systematic imprecision may detract from the reliability of authority reports in the eyes of the public. Caution is essential in dealing with health indices and international comparisons. The OECD and relevant national agencies should invest greater efforts in the consolidation of definitions and methodologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 13 Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Better life index
  • Health measurement
  • Health policy
  • Israel
  • OECD
  • Perceived health status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceived health status in a comparative perspective: Methodological limitations and policy implications for Israel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this