Daily life along the Mekong Rive. Somphou Sayasone, MD, of the Lao PDR Ministry of Health oversees a public health program to eliminate a parasitic disease called schistomiasis from islands located in the Mekong River in southern Lao PDR. This effort included the implementation of water, sanitation, and hygiene interventions. Photo date: Jan. 26-27, 2017 Photographer: Billy Weeks

Measuring Compassion

Epidemiology, the study of the incidence and distribution of diseases and other factors relating to health, holds untapped potential for the study and cultivation of compassion in global health.

Understanding the epidemiology of compassion may help to guide efforts to “scale up” its impact throughout society, particularly within the caring professions.


The Challenge

Despite a deep-rooted belief that compassion is central to quality care, we have little quantitative information about how to cultivate compassion, for example in health facilities, or evaluate our progress. Consequently, current knowledge is insufficient for organizations such as WHO to make evidence-based recommendations for compassionate health systems, or for motivating organizations to prioritize compassion.



Our Approach

Through generous funding and excellent partnerships, we are conducting projects that contribute to a growing body of compassion research needed to implement compassionate programs and evaluate progress.

The Epidemiology of Compassion and Love

In January 2020, FACE convened a groundbreaking meeting on the epidemiology of compassion and love. With support from the Fetzer Institute and in collaboration with the WHO Global Learning Laboratory for Quality UHC, we convened 70 participants–representing a wide range of disciplines–to explore how epidemiology can contribute to our understanding of compassion and love.

We discussed how epidemiologic inquiry is needed to develop and validate metrics that can be used to guide and scale up programs dedicated to cultivating compassion at the individual, organization, and community levels.

The insights gleaned from this meeting – as well as the relationships built with collaborating partners – served as a springboard into many new exciting projects related to measuring compassion.

Stay tuned for information on the next ‘Epidemiology of Compassion’ meeting planned for 2024! The meeting will focus on laying the foundational and actionable framework for the growth of this new field.


Additional Resources


Meeting Report

"Epidemiology of Love & Compassion" meeting
Click Here

Executive Summary

"Epidemiology of Love & Compassion" executive summary
Click Here

Compassion Researcher Handbook

Coming soon!
Click Here

Our Partners


Coming Soon

Compassion Researcher Handbook

This comprehensive researchers handbook includes measures and definitions of compassion for epidemiological research. It focuses on instruments most applicable to program metrics and includes details such as a description of each measure, how to access it, how it’s been used, what has been learned from using it, its validity, its scale, and in what settings it might be recommended for further research. This resource will serve as the foundational tool for the growing field of compassion research.

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