OBJECTIVES--To develop structure, process, and outcome indicators within a quality rating index for audit of public health medicine. DESIGN--Development of an audit matrix and indicator of quality through a series of group discussions with public health physicians, from which self administered weighted questionnaires were constructed by a modified Delphi technique. SETTING--Five Scottish health boards. SUBJECTS--Public health physicians in the five health boards. MAIN MEASURES--Indicators of quality and a quality rating index for seven selected service categories for each of seven agreed roles of public health medicine: assessment of health and health care needs in information services, input into managerial decision making in health promotion, fostering multisectoral collaboration in environmental health services, health service research and evaluation for child services, lead responsibility for the development and/or running of screening services, and public health medicine training and staff development in communicable disease. RESULTS--Indicators in the form of questionnaires were developed for each topic. Three types of indicator emerged: "global," "restricted," and "specific." A quality rating index for each topic was developed on the basis of the questionnaire scores. Piloting of indicators showed that they are potentially generalisable; evaluation of the system is under way across all health boards in Scotland. CONCLUSION--Measurable indicators of quality for public health medicine can be developed.
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