Developing environmental health indicators is challenging and applying a conceptual framework and indicator selection criteria may not be sufficient to prioritise potential indicators to monitor. This study developed a new approach for prioritising potential environmental health indicators, using the example of the indoor environment for New Zealand. A three-stage process of scoping, selection, and design was implemented. A set of potential indicators (including 4 exposure indicators and 20 health indicators) were initially identified and evaluated against indicator selection criteria. The health indicators were then further prioritised according to their public health impact and assessed by the five following sub-criteria: number of people affected (based on environmental burden of disease statistics); severity of health impact; whether vulnerable populations were affected and/or large inequalities were apparent; whether the indicator related to multiple environmental exposures; and policy relevance. Eight core indicators were ultimately selected, as follows: living in crowded households, second-hand smoke exposure, maternal smoking at two weeks post-natal, asthma prevalence, asthma hospitalisations, lower respiratory tract infection hospitalisations, meningococcal disease notifications, and sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI). Additionally, indicators on living in damp and mouldy housing and children’s injuries in the home, were identified as potential indicators, along with attributable burden indicators. Using public health impact criteria and an environmental burden of disease approach was valuable in prioritising and selecting the most important health impacts to monitor, using robust evidence and objective criteria.
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