Population health and health care

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More and more, our health care systems are called upon to reach beyond individual-level care and address the health of the population as a whole. As momentum builds around this shifting perspective, health system leaders and others are seeking out innovative approaches to health care planning and decision-making that apply the population health approach.

CIHI's Canadian Population Health Initiative examines the population health approach within the context of Canada's health care systems. Explore the evolving perspectives of Canada's health system leaders and learn where progress has been made in using a population health approach. Through this work, CIHI aims to stimulate dialogue on the merits and challenges associated with a population health approach within health care, and to stimulate intersectoral action on population health issues in Canada.

What is the population health approach?

The Public Health Agency of Canada defines the population health approach as "an approach to health that aims to improve the health of the entire population and to reduce health inequities among population groups." Core to this approach is the recognition that there are multiple determinants of health, many of which lie beyond the traditional scope of health systems. Equally important is the focus on the distribution of health across populations and the socio-economic gradient. Accordingly, the population health approach recognizes the importance of intersectoral partnerships at the community level, across and among different levels of government, and between health care providers and other professionals who have a role in influencing health.

Products and other resources

The Population Health Approach in Action: A Case Study Series

This series showcases some examples of programs from across Canada that have been successful in using a population health approach to inform health care planning and decision-making.


The NorWest Community Health Centres

This case study showcases the NorWest Community Health Centres, a community health care model in rural northern Ontario that uses population health principles to inform health service delivery. Developed in 2007, the NorWest Community Health Centres' Mobile Health Services is a program underpinned by an interdisciplinary primary care team equipped with a mobile van to bring care and social services to 10 remote communities north of Thunder Bay, Ontario. The study also features patient- and program-level perspectives and population health insights from senior health care leaders who were instrumental in establishing the program.

The NorWest Community Health Centres: The Population Health Approach in Action Download this chapter

Video

Primary Care in the North: Meeting the Challenge (10-minute video)


The Ottawa Hospital and Ottawa Inner City Health

This case study showcases Ottawa Inner City Health, a community-based program aimed at improving the health of chronically homeless people in an urban setting through increased access to care. The study articulates the merits of applying a population health approach and brings to light associated barriers and opportunities. It also features patient- and program-level perspectives and population health insights from senior health care leaders who were instrumental in establishing the program.

The Ottawa Hospital and Ottawa Inner City Health: The Population Health Approach in Action Download this chapter

Videos

The Ottawa Hospital and Ottawa Inner City Health: The Population Health Approach in Action (10-minute video)

The Ottawa Hospital and Ottawa Inner City Health: The Population Health Approach in Action (3-minute video)


Studying Population Health and Health Care

How is the population health approach perceived by health system leaders in Canada? Is the population health approach being integrated into their operational planning and decision-making processes? This report examines the perspectives of health system leaders across Canada and provides examples of how they are using the population health approach to inform their work.

Population Health and Health Care: Exploring a Population Health Approach in Health System Planning and Decision-Making Download this chapter