Table of Contents

Concern about the inadequacies of statistical information and methodology available for policy decisions for the elderly is widespread. 7 federal agencies that shared this concern--the Veterans Administration and 6 agencies of the US Department of Health and Human Services--joined forces and sponsored a 1984 study by the National Research Council to address these problems. The panel was charged with 3 major responsibilities. 1) It was to determine the data requirements for policy development for health care of the elderly during the next decade; to assess the statistical adequacy of current data sources pertaining to the health care of the elderly; and to identify major shortcomings and recommend appropriate remedies and actions. 2) The panel identified the essential components of a comprehensive program of statistics on the elderly that can be implemented within a decentralized statistical system and that would provide adequate data on aging for all functional areas and recommended changes and procedures that would facilitate integrating data from the various components. 3) The panel determined whether changes or refinements are needed in the statistical methodology used in health policy analysis or in the planning and administration of programs for the elderly and recommended actions or further research. The panel's 3 charges are addressed in separate chapters of the report. 5 general recommendations represent the collection and integration of a number of specific recommendations contained in the book's chapters: 1) Develop and maintain a core group of national longitudinal health surveys to study health transitions and health service needs among the elderly; 2) introduce design changes in other major survey programs to improve their usefulness for studying the health of the elderly, health care expenditures, and quality of care; 3) standardize definitions and instrumentation across data collection and data dissemination activities; 4) improve mechanisms for the broad dissemination of all types of data collected with federal support; and 5) provide an adequate level of support for statistical and forecasting research. These recommendations respond to the most pressing needs for information to meet the overall goals of medical care for the elderly: to enable the elderly to stay healthy and functionally independent as long as possible, to provide access to good medical care of whatever type is appropriate, and to provide care in the least restrictive and most cost-effective and appropriate environment.