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Measuring “Quality of Life” in Human Services

Most non-profit organizations, either directly or indirectly, have a quality of life component.  But, what is quality of life and how is it measured?  Here is one perspective on two big questions.

The Human Services fields are fraught with diverse philosophical perspectives that have dictated the quality metrics used.  Quality measurement began as pure counts – the number of people successfully identified and served.  From there, quality measurement flowed into clinical measurements.  Only in the past two decades has client-based feedback begun being integrated into quality measurements.  Emphasis on the word begun!  Popular belief of the validity of consumer-based quality feedback has not reached majority acceptance – to me, it’s a no brainer.

The people served by the Human Services fields, whether an aging individual, an individual with mental health issues, an individual with developmental disabilities or an individual with traumatic brain injury are solely in the unique position of judging the services and supports they receive, from a quality of life perspective.  Wow – that’s kind of a big definitive statement.  So, let’s step back and look closer at the phrase “quality of life”.

Searches for the phrase “quality of life” bring up the following:

The well-being or quality of life of a population is an important concern in economics and political science. It is measured by many social and economic factors. A large part is standard of living, the amount of money and access to goods and services that a person has; these numbers are fairly easily measured. Others like freedom, happiness, art, environmental health, and innovation are far harder to measure. This has created an inevitable imbalance as programs and policies created to fit the easily available economic numbers while ignoring the other measures, that are very difficult to plan for or assess.

Debate on quality of life is millennia-old, with Aristotle giving it much thought in his Nicomachean Ethics and eventually settling on the notion of eudaimonia, a Greek term often translated as happiness, as central. The neologism liveability (or livability), from the adjective liv(e)able, is an abstract noun now often applied to the built environment or a town or city, meaning its contribution to the quality of life of inhabitants.

Measurement of quality of life includes objective measures such the amount of money and access to goods and services.  It also however, includes the personal subjective and relative measures of “freedom, happiness, art, environmental health and innovation.”  There continues to be significant debate about measuring quality of life, but certainly client input is a critical component.

Posted in Client Satisfaction, Market Research, Quality Improvement.

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