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Population Health vs. Public Health
By Contributing Editor

For those interested in a career path as a Healthcare Professional, something to consider when determining a career path is the differences between population health and public health. Both of these titles work to improve the health of the public itself and fall under the umbrella of the field of Health Sciences. There are many similarities and differences between the two. To understand the distinction, one must first correctly define them.

What is Population Health?

Population health is a relatively new term professionals are using in the healthcare industry. It is a broad strokes approach that can be defined as a focus on understanding the conditions and factors that influence the health of populations over lifetimes. Population health also measures the patterns of occurrences of certain problems and implements policies for the overall health and wellbeing of society as a whole entity. Healthcare professionals work to improve the health of populations by preventing disease, promote healthy lifestyles, and addressing health inequities. Some outcomes that population health responds to are improving the health of the people with limited resources, implementing cost-effective strategies to address health disparities, and developing practice guidelines for practitioners. Providers use population health solutions to identify any risk factors, coordinate care needed, and find specific information related to the patient to assist them accurately.

What is Public Health?

According to the American Public Health Association (APHA), Public Health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work and play. Public Health works on a more personal level than population health. It promotes wellness to the public by encouraging patients to live healthier lives. Public Health workers also educate people to help prevent bad habits, like smoking and drug use from getting out of control. These might include alcohol, tobacco and other substance abuse. Social workers and caseworkers who work with the healthcare industry in providing government assistance and counseling to the public fall under the umbrella of Public Health workers.

Public Health workers tasks can vary greatly depending on the practitioner’s interests and education. One might be the healthcare provider of a sick child, while another may be the scientist working to find a vaccine for a growing epidemic or the first responder to a horrific accident. Public Health workers can be policymakers as well. They may set standards for safety rules to protect construction workers while on the job, or promote a new facility that provides an afterschool program for underprivileged children to attend. Wherever the calling may take them, Public Health workers interact with society on some level of their work. Their job primarily is to change the quality of life for all people.

Why are Population Health and Public Health so important?

As each new advancement in technology takes off, the healthcare industry also often benefits. People in the healthcare field have access to data, resources, and innovations more now than ever before. Technology has allowed healthcare workers to monitor patients more closely and allowed for more determined outcomes for each patient, regardless of their condition. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, both Population Health and Public Health have been fields affected by the increase in new technology. They work together to prevent diseases and keep people safe and healthy. With new technology comes better, more efficient and advanced procedures, as well as innovations for existing methods. That is why Population Health and Public Health are so important to society as a whole.