Methods: The search was conducted across three databases: PubMed, CINAHL and Emerald using four key concepts: 'health', 'index', 'context', 'develop', which was supplemented with Google searching and reference scanning. A researcher screened the titles, abstracts and subsequently full texts and confirmed the findings with the research team at each stage. Data charting was performed according to the included publications and identified indices. The collation was performed by describing the indices and made observation on its development method using a priori framework consist of four processes: underpinning theory, model or framework; data selection and processing; formation of index; testing of index.
Results: Twenty-six publications describing population health indices were included, and 27 indices were identified. These indices covered the following health topics: overall health outcomes (n = 15), outcomes for specific health topics (n = 4), diseases outcome (n = 6), assist health resource allocation for priority minority subgroup or geographic area (n = 4), quality of health or health care (n = 2). Twenty-one indices measure health for general populations while six measure defined subpopulations. Fourteen of the indices reported at least one of the development processes according to the a priori framework: underpinning theory, model or framework (n = 7); data selection and processing (n = 8); formation of index (n = 12); testing of index (n = 9).
Conclusions: Few population health indices measure specific health topics or health of specific sub-population. There is also a lack of usage of theories, models or framework in developing these indices. Efforts to develop a guideline is proposed on how population health indices can be developed systematically and rigorously to ensure validity and comprehensive assessment of the indices.