According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), a nonprofit that represents public health agencies across the United States, population-centered health (or sometimes simply population health) is concerned with the health outcomes of individuals as part of a group. These outcomes are the result of many factors, including genetics, behaviors, social and environmental impact, healthcare policies and the distribution of inequalities across the populace.
This approach to healthcare draws a great deal of positive attention as it opens up a way to address the health problems of high-risk populations comprehensively, combining the existing healthcare infrastructure with evolving strategies tailored to the at-risk group itself. An understanding of population-centered health and the strategies used to improve conditions for population groups is increasingly important for nurses.
The Goal of Population-Centered Health
Any approach to healthcare needs to balance patient care with the cost of care, and the population-centered approach is no different.
Population-centered health aims to improve outcomes while significantly reducing costs for patients and providers alike by focusing on the quality of care, access to care and promoting preventive care. It does all of this by utilizing technology, conducting analyses on all relevant metrics and engaging patients through multiple points of contact.
In other words, the population-centered health approach takes both a micro and a macro view. It addresses the immediate needs of the individual patient and how those needs fit into a specific group overall. It addresses acute and chronic conditions as well as the factors that contribute to them. It treats the patient and encourages healthy lifestyle choices to reduce risk for chronic diseases. It's a smart approach that leverages technology in an all-inclusive way, availing itself of clinical and patient data to determine specific population risks and create individualized services.
7 Strategies in Population-Centered Health
What does population-centered health look like in action? Here are seven strategies that demonstrate this approach:
Coordination – Community organizations, hospitals and local public health agencies work together to develop guidance on local health planning. Bringing a diverse group of stakeholders to the table ensures a much broader coalition with a far deeper understanding of the issues at stake.
Legislative Involvement – This approach ensures that public health concerns stay top of mind during government decision-making. Such advocacy may take many forms, from spearheading legislation to improve the health of the populace to heading off the unintended consequences of poorly written laws.
Communication – The vast wealth of information in the medical literature and public health data sets needs to be synthesized, translated and put into actionable form. Communicating this information to patients, politicians, healthcare providers and others puts everyone on the same page.
Education – Stakeholders can educate healthcare workers in a specific area about the needs of the individuals and groups that live in that community. This may take place in college courses, continuing education programs or through direct outreach.
Expanded Access – With systematic analysis of available data, including predictive analysis, at-risk groups can receive the resources necessary to address their needs. Access may also grow through greater adoption of telemedicine.
Community Health Workers (CHWs) – By providing outreach to their communities, including education and advocacy, CHWs can help coordinate resources as well as positively affect outcomes for patients. These professionals are an indispensable part of preventive and continuing care.
Value-Based Payments – Shifting priorities toward the value of care provided and away from episodic delivery of care further supports the adoption of population-centered health, with a focus on treating the whole patient.
A Solid Grounding in Population-Centered Health
Nurses can stay ahead of the curve in their continuing education. For those who are planning to pursue an online RN to BSN degree program, the "Population Centered Health" course offered at Northern Kentucky University (NKU) can be a vital part of the overall educational path. Exploring "global and community health concepts focusing on population bio-psycho-social and spiritual well-being," this course details strategies for health promotion, giving you a firm footing in this aspect of the changing face of healthcare.
Emerging technologies and increased population health awareness make it possible to improve conditions for patients on a scale never before imagined. It is an exciting time to be at the vanguard healthcare's evolution.
Learn more about NKU's online RN to BSN program.
Sources:Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: Population Health: Top 10 Promising Approaches
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