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Is There a Difference Between Public Health and Population Health?


The public health community ignores 3 important questions, according to the Dean of the College of Population Health.

What separates “population health” from “public health?”

According to David Nash, MD: Nothing...with a caveat. Population health builds on public health’s work, seeking to contextualize and coordinate its many strands.

“[Public health’s] focus is certainly admirable. Clean water, vaccinations, AIDS reduction, driving 55 miles per hour…” he said. “They have done more for health in society than all 140 academic medical centers combined.”

But the public health community ignores 3 important questions, he said: What does care cost, what’s the quality and safety of that care, and what are the tradeoffs that a society has to make?

Those questions are the basis of the Jefferson College of Population Health—"The first of its kind in the nation," as Nash said. Thomas Jefferson University established it a decade ago, and Nash has been its Dean since. He told Healthcare Analytics News™ about its origin story in an interview these week (video above).

The College of Population Health is built on Jefferson's Department of Health Policy, which was extracted from the medical school and given degree-granting status. But in addition to its teaching program, it has a number of research and outreach programs.

A $7.5 million grant from the 1889 Foundation in 2016 helped them develop a program in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a small rust belt city far from Jefferson’s urban core in Philadelphia. The 1899 Jefferson Center allows the academics to study rural and exurban communities and pilot analytics interventions.

The College also helps support the annual Population Health Colloquium, now in its 18th year. Our interview took place at the meeting, which concluded today.

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