Public health policy has traditionally been anchored by two key cornerstones – improving the average health of a population and reducing disparities in health – in the overarching goal to produce healthier populations and societies. The overall goal of comparing disparities between populations is to help identify places to intervene to improve health. Health monitoring is well-developed, with widely accepted methods for prospective disease surveillance, national health surveys, and the collection of vital statistics. The focus is on morbidity and mortality from conditions for which there are known effective public health and personal health care interventions - the concept of 'avoidable health burden'. Differences in this burden can be used to indicate differences in the performance and access to health systems.