Understanding population health terminology

Milbank Q. 2007;85(1):139-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2007.00479.x.


Population health is a relatively new term, with no agreement about whether it refers to a concept of health or a field of study of health determinants. There is debate, sometimes heated, about whether population health and public health are identical or different. Discussions of population health involve many terms, such as outcomes, disparities, determinants, and risk factors, which may be used imprecisely, particularly across different disciplines, such as medicine, epidemiology, economics, and sociology. Nonetheless, thinking and communicating clearly about population health concepts are essential for public and private policymakers to improve the population's health and reduce disparities. This article defines and discusses many of the terms and concepts characterizing this emerging field.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Health Policy
  • Health Promotion
  • Health Services Research
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Humans
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Public Health / classification
  • Public Health / standards*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Sociology, Medical
  • Terminology as Topic*