Dear AJPM Reader,
Over the past two decades, the term "population health" has gained traction among healthcare stakeholders, yet it can mean a variety of things to different people in diverse contexts. Two articles in our latest issue address questions related to the concept of population health in research, policy, and practice.
In their Current Issues article, AJPM associate editors Robert Wallace, Patrick Remington, and William Wadland trace the development of population health from the emergence of public health as a field in the 1880s, to the idea of community health in the 1970s, and finally to the notion of population health today. They maintain that a greater consensus on terminology would enhance the conversation around improving broad-scale health outcomes and ask important questions about the implications of these terms for preventive medicine.
Stahlhut and colleagues explore these issues further in their research manuscript, "Characteristics of Population Health Physicians and the Needs of Healthcare Organizations." Through interviews with healthcare executives and preventive medicine physicians, they identify two types of population health physicians: the clinician leader and the population health specialist. They also draw out from the interviews four skills needed by a population health physician: finance/business, quality improvement, informatics, and leadership.
These articles initiate an important conversation about population health from the perspective of preventive medicine that we expect to prompt future dialog and study. We hope you find them, and the rest of our February 2021 articles, to be timely, topical, and informative.
Yours in prevention and health,
Matthew L. Boulton, MD, MPH
American Journal of Preventive Medicine