What is Population Health?

CDC views population health as an interdisciplinary, customizable approach that allows health departments to connect practice to policy for change to happen locally. This approach utilizes non-traditional partnerships among different sectors of the community – public health, industry, academia, health care, local government entities, etc. – to achieve positive health outcomes. Population health “brings significant health concerns into focus and addresses ways that resources can be allocated to overcome the problems that drive poor health conditions in the population.”

Two examples of strategies developed by CDC to address population health are:

How is Population Health Different from Public Health?

Public health works to protect and improve the health of communities through policy recommendations, health education and outreach, and research for disease detection and injury prevention. It can be defined as what “we as a society do collectively to assure the conditions in which people can be healthy” (Institute of Medicine, 1988). On the other hand, population health provides “an opportunity for health care systems, agencies and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve.

Related Information

We all have a stake in population health. These related links offer diverse perspectives and strategies—all with a common convergence on population health.


  1. CDC 6|18 Initiative targets 6 common and costly health conditions with 18 proven interventions.
  2. CDC Health Impact in 5 Years (HI-5) Interventions initiative highlights 14 evidence-based community-wide population health interventions that improve the health of the community (not clinical/patient-oriented) and demonstrate positive health impact in 5 years or less and cost-effectiveness and savings over time.

Other Federal and National Public Health Agencies

  1. CMS State Innovation Models Initiative of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) partners with states to advance multi-payer healthcare payment and delivery system reform models. Each state-led model aims to achieve better quality of care, lower costs, and improved health for the population of the participating states or territory. The initiative is testing the ability of state governments to utilize policy and regulatory levers to accelerate health system transformation to meet these aims.
  2. National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) The Local Health Department as Community Chief Health Strategist
  3. Public Health Foundation Becoming a Community Chief Health Strategist
  4. US Department of Health & Human Services Public Health 3.0: A Challenge for the Nation, a Charge for Public Health


  1. Institute for Healthcare Improvement Populations, Population Health, and the Evolution of Population Management: Making Sense of the Terminology in US Health Care Today. This is a handy primer to explain the differences between population health, population management, and other terms related to the Triple Aim.
  2. Association for Community Health Improvement offers a definition of the term as well as the goals and processes that hospitals should consider as they implement population health strategies.

Additional Resources and Research

  1. DeSalvo K, O’Carroll P, Koo D, Auerbach J, Monroe J. Public health 3.0: time for an upgrade. Am J Public Health 2016;106(4):621–2.
  2. RESOLVE, Auerbach J. The high achieving health department in 2020 as the community chief health strategist. 2014.
  3. Kindig D, Stoddart G. What is population health? Am J Public Health 2003;93(3):380–3.
  4. Mays GP. Organizing and financing population health: systems, policies & incentives. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Population Health Fellowship Orientation, 2017. (PHWI presentation).
  5. National Association of Chronic Disease Directors. Health yeah! with Eric Kasowski. [Podcast].
  6. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Building a culture of health. [website].