Health is essential to everyone’s life, and the mission of population health is to promote, prevent and maintain it. This is done through research into disease patterns, practices and habits as well as other issues related to population health.
Population health was first popularized in 2003 by David Kindig and Greg Stoddart, who defined it as “the overall health outcome for a group of individuals, including its distribution within that group.” This definition has since become ubiquitous in policy discussions, research initiatives, academic departments/institutes dedicated to improving communities’ and societies’ wellbeing.
Population health is an intricate and multidisciplinary approach to healthcare that requires collaboration and integration between public health, social services, healthcare organizations, and community stakeholders.
Therefore, public health has increasingly focused on what are known as “social determinants of health.” These include poverty, racial/ethnic inequality, education, social environments and behavioral habits, socioeconomic status, employment/income levels, environmental factors genetics as well as both the physical and social environment.
Furthermore, many of the health determinants are highly modifiable and can be reduced or eliminated to improve population health – particularly for the poor and those with chronic medical conditions.
Access to food, shelter, transportation and education are essential elements for promoting healthy lifestyles. Furthermore, social programs and activities designed to promote these ideals must also be accessible.
Although many of these determinants can be changed, they may not always be feasible or affordable to do so. In some cases, providing clean water and air has been shown to significantly reduce death rates.
However, changing a society’s cultural norms that contribute to poor population health can take years and be an uphill battle. That is why striving towards improved population health should be our collective mission.
A major benefit of this strategy is that it can help the nation improve its overall health by addressing all human health determinants and encouraging positive outcomes.
For instance, improving the nutritional quality of food and housing can reduce childhood illnesses and help to prevent disease. Likewise, providing access to health and social services can prevent and treat illnesses such as HIV/AIDS.
Ultimately, population health strives to ensure all members of a community have access to high-quality, cost-effective care. This is achieved through data analytics and collaboration among all parties involved in a community’s wellbeing – whether they be healthcare providers or government agencies.
Partnerships like these can have a tremendous effect on the health of a region and its people. For instance, during the recent COVID-19 pandemic in America, having an effective population health infrastructure helped promote public health, build resilience within the health system, and facilitate financial recovery.