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Understanding and Identifying Key Components of Population Health

January 15, 2021
pop points

By Mitch Kaminski, MD, MBA, editor-in-chief 

We still begin our Population Health Academy sessions—a 3-day boot camp in population health education at the Jefferson College of Population Health—with a discussion around: What is Population Health? Although Stoddard and Kindig1 proposed this widely cited definition of population health in 2003, the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group,” they predicted that the definition of the emerging discipline would undergo refinement. And it has.

Much of our boot camp discussion considers the roles of our health care systems, and how they can better become systems of health. Can we do more work upstream to promote wellness and reduce chronic disease? Traditional health care has focused on “mopping the floor,” often managing the consequences of neglected health, instead of “turning off the faucet.”

mopping the floor graphic

I’ve developed the following diagram showing a “spectrum” of features that cross disciplines between traditional public health, and the newer population health.2 This diagram is dynamic. Even in the past year, some components of population health are shifting left and right along the spectrum. As you look at the diagram, consider these two questions:

  1. Where do you fit in the population health spectrum?
  2. How are your challenges shifting along this spectrum?
pop health spectrum

The diverse offerings of the Population Health Learning Network reflect our diverse readership, and include the publications Annals of Long-Term Care, First Report Managed Care, Pharmacy Learning Network, Integrated Healthcare Executive, and Veterans Health Today. Our thousands of readers, all stakeholders in population health, represent a wealth of experience as they confront challenges and opportunities in a rapidly changing environment. As part of the same learning network, what do we all share in common through population health?

My goal as I undertake the privilege of serving in the new role of Editor-in Chief of the Network is to present perspectives of importance to all of our readers. Whether you seek growth and innovation, new processes and products to better serve our population, or the skills and/or knowledge to become more successful leaders, I see cross-cutting themes:

  • care models and payment models are changing rapidly,
  • we are all or will become patients, and desire high quality, affordable health care
  • we all live in a society with social disparities and health care inequities
  • we are all challenged, both personally and professionally, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the College, much of our best learning takes place through on-line discussion amongst our students and faculty. I hope that these editorials will generate learning discussions for us, as well. I welcome your comments and perspectives, and suggestions for future topics in “Population Points.”


  1. Kindig P, Stoddart G. What is population health? Am J Public Health. 2003;93:380–383.
  2. Kaminski, M. “What Is Population Health?”  Popul Health Mana.g 2020


jefferson LogoThis article was published in partnership with the Jefferson College of Population Health

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