Sustainable Population Health -- Who's on First?

Sustainable Population Health:
Part A – Who’s On First?

Part A of this article clarifies the blurring terminology that can inadvertently stunt health improvement understanding and action. 

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Post-truth, Fake news, Misinformation ( words of the year for 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively). Let’s be clear: How is population health different from community and public health? How does it relate to health disparities? A senior leader discussion on these topics can begin to sound like a rendition of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s On First?” 

The terms Community Health, Public Health and Population Health are often used with the same broad brush. But advancement in our thinking and action start with clarity of our language and terminology. Clearly there is much common ground with these terms. To start 2019 off with clarity, below is a summary delineation of these terms.

Regardless of the terminology used or who leads which initiatives, community health, public health, and population health all share the intent of long-term wellness of vulnerable patients with improved processes, technology and proactive care. 

Health Equity

Socioeconomic disparities and health inequities are a primary concern of community health organizations. They require efforts of stakeholders to go far beyond the clinical realm and address underlying issues including food security, housing, education, transportation, child care and community building. A broad collaborative and collective impact approach involving school, government, community members as well as healthcare organizations is required. Both population health and public health approaches should include collaboration across the continuum of care and into the community, if perhaps to different degrees. 

Part B of this article will address how growth plans of healthcare systems distinguish population health management from community and public health.