What is Population Health, and Why Does It Matter?

Public health professionals are dedicated, compassionate workers who promote and protect the health of specific populations – or, in other words, the communities, organizations, and regions in which they work. Through research, advocacy, and health care, public health workers assess the health and wellness of other people and strategize to improve overall population health.

We’ve already talked about epidemiology. We’ve already talked about community health and advocacy. But what about this so-called population health? What is population health, and why is it important?

Population health is a far-stretching topic – it encompasses entire populations, after all. But what does it mean exactly? Below, Goodwin College explores population health as it relates to the public health field.

What is population health, exactly?

Back in the day, population health was defined as “the health outcomes of a group of individuals [a population], including the distribution of such outcomes within the group.” But population health, as critical of a field as it is, deserves a more holistic definition. Let’s break it down a bit more:

Population health does not just define the health of a population or group of people – While this is undoubtedly an important part of the field, population health also involves the spread of health throughout a given population and the delivery of health care to the people within it.

All that said, population health is synonymous with public health: it is a field dedicated to improving the health of entire populations. Much like public health, population health looks at the current health of populations, any health trends or determinants within the population, and any necessary interventions, policies, or improvements needed within a population’s health care system.

The goal of public health and population health workers is to protect, promote, and restore the health of human populations. These populations may be as small as a local, urban community, or as large as a third-world country. Typically, population health workers will work in underprivileged, marginalized populations where resources are limited and there is a general lack of access to quality health care.

What do population health workers do?

There are many careers within the public health field. Typically, the work of population health involves:

  • Researching disease and injury prevention strategies
  • Promoting healthy lifestyles and habits in a given population
  • Assessing the social, environmental, cultural, and physical health of specific populations
  • Evaluating the accessibility and quality of their current health care resources
  • Reducing any health-related inequities or discrepancies in the population
  • Responding to health conditions, concerns, and epidemics

Why is population health so important today?

As you may know, health (in general) is a major challenge facing modern day. The baby boomer population is aging, and given that older people have more medical problems, there is now greater demand for health care services than ever before. With the high costs of health care, and so many economic disparities across the world, quality care is not always available or attainable. Not to mention, international health issues are becoming of greater concern. New epidemics like the Zika virus and Ebola, or health-threatening issues like water pollution and obesity, are constantly on the uproar. That is where population and public health workers come in to help.

Public health workers have the utmost goal of protecting and preserving the health and well-being of the populations in which they work. If they are working in an urban, underprivileged population that either (1) does not have access to a quality health care facility or (2) that’s people are lacking the funds to seek out quality health care, it is the job of a public health worker to ensure its people get the medical care they need and deserve. This may mean bringing in vaccinations or a mobile health clinic, it may mean counseling and educating the people on good hygiene and self-care, or possibly developing a larger strategy to help the population back on its feet.

Population health is vital to people’s lives, and to our global health. Population health workers help to prevent disease from spreading, epidemics from killing, and resources from falling through the cracks.

How do you get involved with population health?

Public health, community health, and population health workers typically earn their postsecondary education at a public health focused college. Goodwin College in Connecticut, for example, offers a Bachelor’s degree program for aspiring public health professionals looking to kick off their careers with entry-level positions in the field. By earning a public health degree, you will qualify for a variety of career paths upon graduation: whether in research or working in-field with populations in need.

As a public health major, you will investigate all of the factors that influence a population’s health – from social and economic conditions to environment, health policies to the physical health of the people. You will also learn how these factors interact with another, learn how to assess these in real-world settings, and ultimately determine how you can make improvements to enhance a population’s overall health.

Goodwin’s public health college is flexible and designed for aspiring professionals with an agenda: to get into the workforce and to start making a difference in the lives of others. To start your path in population health in Connecticut, contact Goodwin today at 800-889-3282. Or, learn more about public and population health by visiting https://www.goodwin.edu/landingpages/public-health.