Developing a shared understanding of population health

by Stephen Horan, PhDsurvey

The term “population health” is creating a lot of buzz, along with some confusion.  It is important to understand population health and related concepts in order to anticipate where the health system is going, and envision the kinds of health innovations that are needed.   In this article we introduce some basic definitions of population health and related terms.  We also introduce a seven-step model for designing population health initiatives.

Defining Population Health Terms

Population health has been defined in various ways, but consensus seems to be building around the definition of population health as the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.[1]   Population health management has also been defined in multiple ways, with no consensus definition at this point.  As a working definition, we can think of population health management as the practice of optimizing health and health supports for defined populations at the lowest necessary cost.  Population health management is typically, though not exclusively, envisioned in the context of clinical care.  Population health improvement is often used to describe initiatives that go beyond clinical care to include health promotion and prevention in the workplace or community setting.

Designing Population Health Initiatives

Whether our focus is clinical care, workplace health, or community health, it helps to have a roadmap for designing population health initiatives. Here are seven basic steps that you can use to design and implement population health initiatives in any setting...

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