Objective: To compare and contrast clinical epidemiology and population health perspectives on the role of health care in reducing socioeconomic disparities in health.
Study design and setting: A review of concepts outlined in selected articles on population health and clinical epidemiology and a systematic literature search for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of therapeutic interventions for cardiovascular disease that contained analysis of outcomes by socioeconomic status.
Results: Population health has a focus on health disparities, particularly disparities related to socioeconomic status, and many of its proponents have a pessimistic view of the degree to which health care can reduce these disparities. Clinical epidemiology has a focus on the production of valid evidence on the impact of health care interventions; however, RCTs rarely report the impact of interventions across socioeconomic strata. Both population health and clinical epidemiology share the view that efficacy, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness are all important in defining the impact of health care on health disparities.
Conclusion: Principles drawn from both population health and clinical epidemiology could be used to provide a clearer picture of the role that health care interventions can have on socioeconomic disparities in health and to identify implications for policy, research, and clinical practice.