What does improving population health really mean?

The King’s Fund has published ‘What does improving population health really mean?’

Put simply, population health means the health outcomes of a defined group of people, as well as the distribution of health outcomes within the group.

The health of a population is influenced by a wide range of factors and the interactions between them. They include the local environment – such as the conditions in which people live and work; social and economic factors – like education, income and employment; lifestyles – including what people eat and drink, whether they smoke, and how much physical activity they do; and access to health care and other public and private services. Age, sex and genes make a difference to health too, as well as social networks and the wider society in which people live.

Population health
Image source: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/

The NHS has an important role to play in improving population health and must work with local government and other partners to develop more co-ordinated approaches to improving population health. At a local level, this should involve developing common aims for improving health, defining how these goals will be measured, and sharing resources to achieve them. It may also involve developing more systematic ways for NHS staff to identify people’s non-medical needs and work with others in the community to address them. STPs offer an important opportunity for the NHS and its partners to work together to achieve this.

But NHS and local government leaders can only do so much. A major factor outside their control is the political decisions made by government – for example, on welfare spending or housing policy –which have a major impact on people’s health. Short-sighted cuts to local government and public health budgets at a national level will make ambitions to improve population health harder to achieve.

Read the full text here


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