What is population health?

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Most of the work of primary care is focused on sequentially managing the health problems of individual patients.

Moving towards a population health perspective requires stepping back to think about trends and drivers of disease in the local population, as well as potential interventions that might improve health outcomes.

When we think about reducing risk at the population level it is often more effective to try and improve everyone's health by a small amount than to focus on making big changes to the most high-risk patients. Taking blood pressure as an example, offering antihypertensives to people whose BP exceeds certain thresholds is likely to prevent less deaths than reducing the amount of salt in bread. This slightly counter-intuitive insight, first put forward by Geoffery Rose is a stark wakeup call to health systems oriented around managing high-risk individuals rather than improving the conditions in which we all live, grow, and work.

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