The Difference Between Population Health & Public Health
The success of any given country or even a civilization over the long run has a great deal to do with the overall health of its people. By paying close attention to the medical prospects of a group in the face of common ailments, for example, researchers can detect patterns and come up with methods to treat emerging problems before they get too out of hand.
From controlling the number of people who fall ill to infectious diseases to dealing with the growing issue of violence in crowded cities, monitoring the health of groups is an important aspect of our medical system.
People who work in the medical industry sometimes get so busy with their tasks that they wind up envisioning their patients as an endless procession of individuals and not part of a larger group that deserves careful monitoring to keep society as a whole healthier and safer.
This is normal point of view for medical professionals, especially when you are down in the trenches, just trying to keep the schedule from falling apart as you seek to give each patient proper treatment in the limited time you have allocated that day. The electronic health record or EHR software you’ve deployed at your facility is instrumental in keeping track of how patients are doing in aggregate and can this data can inform the work being done by researchers.
You may hear fellow professionals or members of the media speaking about plans for population health or what to do to better serve the public health. The two terms are similar, but there are differences between population health and public health that are worth keeping in mind.
Population health has to do with the health of a specific group of individuals. The population may be defined by its location, such as the status of a city, county, state or country.
Here, we are concerned with the medical outcomes of individuals as seen in a group. Scientists are particularly interested in the differences of outcomes in a particular group, which they can then explain with causes such as income disparity, levels of education and even the ratio of medical professionals to patients in a given population.
Public health is a matter of concern for everyone and many different voices contribute to spreading news and information about it.
On the individual level, for example, we receive instructions to cover our mouths when we cough or to use a tissue when sneezing. Reminders from the doctor of pharmacy to get a vaccination, quarantining people who have severely communicable diseases and setting up mobile health check vans to treat people in underserved locations are other front-line aspects of safeguarding the public healthy. Think of policy and laws when public health comes up for discussion.
It’s both a duty and a privilege to treat patients in your service area, and the information your team collects on each person needing help can wind up in a larger pool of statistical information that public health and population health experts alike can benefit from using. Now that you’ve given some thought to the difference between population health and public health, here’s hoping that the work you do will wind up helping more people than just the patients who are immediately in front of you.
- It’s important to see the forest for the trees and keep population health in mind when treating individual patients.
- Make sure that you use the terms “population health” and “public health” accurately to avoid confusing your colleagues.
- Scientists define population health with a focus on the geographic nature of treating patients in groups.
- Public health refers to the health situation of the public at large and is subject to government regulation to ensure medical professionals do their job properly.
- Medical professionals using dedicated software tools such as Electronic Health Record applications to keep their offices running smoothly can also use the software to keep tabs on public health data.
About Christina Rosario
Christina Rosario is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Advanced Data Systems Corporation, a leading provider of healthcare IT solutions for medical practices and billing companies. When she's not helping ADS clients boost productivity and profitability, she can be found browsing travel websites, shopping in NYC, and spending time with her family.