If you’ve ever thought a career in medicine was the only way to make a difference to people’s health, think again. The ever-widening field of Population Health is an exciting career choice, and one that’s at the centre of a healthcare revolution.
It’s no secret that healthcare systems in the UK and across the world are facing growing pressure. Chronic diseases, age-related conditions and mental ill-health are on the rise, and reports of NHS crises seem to be in the news every day.
While medical advances are helping many people live longer, the quality of care a person receives across their lifetime depends greatly on where they were born, live and work.
It’s this inequity that experts in Population Health aim to address, by understanding the health needs of groups of people and transforming traditional healthcare models to meet those needs.
That’s why if you’ve ever wanted a career that improves people’s health and wellbeing, makes a difference in your community, or simply changes the world – then Population Health might be for you.
What does population health mean?
Population Health refers to the determinants and health outcomes of individuals, groups and populations.
Dr Jodie Croxall from Swansea University Medical School, which offers a degree in population health and medical sciences, explains that the field is, “concerned with the factors that shape our health, including healthcare systems, genetics, biology, plus lifestyle and individual behaviours as well as environmental influences.”
By considering these factors, Population Health experts can innovate healthcare systems and find ways to help people live longer and healthier lives.
Why is it important?
Health advocacy organisations like The King’s Fund are calling for urgent transformation in healthcare systems to address gaps in healthcare. And the 2016 World Innovation Summit for Health (WISH) published a report warning that, unless healthcare policies change, ‘these gaps will simply grow – and healthcare services will struggle to cope under the pressure’.
That’s where Population Health comes in. It challenges health systems, such as the NHS, to move away from a reactive approach where a person interacts with their GP only when they are unwell.
Instead, a Population Health approach might look at all the factors impacting a person’s health and wellbeing, then employ a system which shares patient needs across relevant services. Monitoring and communication are key, as well as input from the patient.
Ultimately, population health aims to innovate healthcare models to:
- improve the health and wellbeing of local communities,
- provide a better experience of care for patients,
- reduce pressure on GPs and A&E services,
- save money in the public health sector.
The “next big thing” in healthcare
According to Dr Croxall, population health is widely considered to be the ‘next big thing’ in healthcare.
“Increasingly, healthcare models are shifting focus from ‘volume’ to ‘value’,” she says. “More emphasis is being placed on prevention and helping people look after their own health and wellbeing.
“That’s why there are exciting opportunities to pursue a wide variety of career pathways in this area, especially in health services and government sectors.”
Careers in population health
Studying population health will provide you with an excellent grounding for professional practice and research careers in the Medical and Life Sciences and beyond.
- Clinical practice
- Patient advocacy
- Care management/coordination
- Health education
- Government policy
- Health informatics
- Telehealth and telemedicine
How does population health relate to medicine?
Medicine no longer sits separately to economic, demographic and social sciences. It’s where these disciplines meet that population health emerges.
Studying Population Health can open your future to a wide range of career options in medicine and the life sciences.
Leaders are needed to revolutionise health services, design new management strategies, and innovate care models to centre on the needs of the individual and communities.
Where can I study population health?
Swansea University’s BSc in Population Health and Medical Sciences recognises that the two fields naturally go together.
It prepares students for further professional and vocational training, such as graduate entry medicine and physician associate studies (or other graduate entry programmes such as NHS management), education and training, postgraduate study or research.
It is also part of the ‘Pathways to Medicine’ programme. As a student of this degree, if you choose the right path and meet the minimum entry criteria, you could be guaranteed an interview for the Graduate Entry Medicine Programme.
Sponsored by Swansea University Medical School