What Is Population Health?

Population Health in the Affordable Care Act Era

by Michael A. Stoto, Ph.D., Copyright 2013: AcademyHealth
February 21, 2013

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The phrase “population health” is increasingly used by researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in health care, public health, and other fields. Although their understanding of this phrase differs, many see attention to population health as a potent opportunity for health care delivery systems, public health agencies, community-based organizations, and many other entities to work together to improve health outcomes in the communities they serve. To explore these possibilities and to identify the organizations’ potential contributions and role in advancing the evidence base for population health policy and practice, AcademyHealth is convening an exploratory meeting to identify specific activities, programs, and partnerships to develop and/or pursue to support research and translation activities in this area.

As a starting point for the discussion, this background paper draws on a scan of the policy, practice, and research environment to identify the many distinct but overlapping meanings of population health, identify their commonalities, and suggest a research agenda for the field and opportunities for AcademyHealth. I hope that all meeting participants see their own ideas about population health represented in this paper while discovering other interpretations and perspectives.