Next Lesson - Models of Health
- To define population science, social science and public health, and to understand how they relate to healthcare
- To be able to interpret population graphs and be able to make inferences about the population from them
- To describe the three types of public health and how they influence healthcare choices
- To describe the three types of prevention and give an example of each
- This unit contains articles on population science (the study of the health of populations), public health (organised efforts to improve population health), and social science (the study of societal relationships).
- Population graphs show the percentage of population plotted against age for both men and women to show the general shape of a population. If the population is expanding, there are more births than deaths, so the graph will be wider at the bottom. If it is contracting, there are more deaths than births, so the graph will be narrower at the bottom.
- The three domains of public health are improvement (making existing disease better), prevention (stopping disease forming), and applications to healthcare (allowing for improvement in the future).
- The three types of prevention are primary (stopping disease from happening), secondary (preventing disease form worsening), and tertiary (making established disease easier to live with).
What is this unit?
This unit is a compilation of many different focuses that can all fit under the heading of ‘Population and Social Science’. It includes articles on epidemiological study designs, how to interpret the data from studies, health beliefs of the public, public health, and patient safety and quality in the NHS.
Here are some key definitions:
- Public Health – the effort placed in preventing disease, prolonging life and improving health of the population through the organised efforts of society, often through governing bodies.
- Population Science – a research discipline that exists to have an impact on public health through its study of the things that can impact health incomes, and what can be done to improve those outcomes for the most people.
- Social Science – the study of human society and social relationships. This unit focuses specifically on relationships within the NHS, but lots of the ideas can be applied to a wider context.
Population graphs exist to show the shape of populations. They show percentage population on the x-axis against age on the y. It has two sides, male in blue and female in pink. This example has two horizontal lines, which indicate 15 and 65 years of age. This is done to separate the population into pre-working age, working age, and post-working age.
Diagram: Shows four common shapes of population graph, plotting age on the y axis against percentage of population at that age on the x axis. It has two halves, with female population in pink, and male population in blue.
SimpleMed original by Maddie Swannack
An example of a rapidly expanding country would be Afghanistan. This is because it has very high levels of child mortality, so many children are born (causing the very wide bottom) but because their mortality is so high, not many of them make it to adulthood, which is why there is such a steep drop off in the percentage of the population older than 15. This does not necessarily mean that the number of children per woman must be high (it is only average 4.4 per woman), but because the mortality of children is so high, the population still ends up as rapidly expanding.
An example of an expanding population would be Uganda. This is because the average woman has 6.4 children, but their childhood mortality rate is not as high as Afghanistan, so more of those children live into adulthood. This high birth rate is through to be stemming from many social factors, like the scarcity of contraception, and the want for children to work.
An example of a stable population would be the USA. Despite the lowered fertility rates due to socioeconomic changes, there are a similar number of people being born to those who are dying. The average number of children per woman is 2.4.
An example of a contracting population would be Japan. This stems from the decreasing fertility prevalence in this country (and across much of the world) and from the improving healthcare, meaning that less babies are being born than elderly people dying. The average number of children per woman is 1.4, and this is thought to be so low due to easy availability of contraception, increased education of women leading to women having children later in life, and the increased cost of having children in this country.
It is important to understand the shape of the population that is going to be studied in public health, so any study groups can reflect the ‘normal’ for that population.
Domains of Public Health
There are three domains of public health:
- Health improvements – the effort to improve the health of the population once their problems have already developed. Some examples include: weight loss programs, smoking cessation services, treating pre-existing disease (like treating depression). This is important to maintain the health of the population, and for improving quality of life.
- Health protection – the effort taken to prevent the long-term problems developing in the first place. Some examples include: screening programs (like cervical or bowel cancer) and immunisation. These can be expensive in the short term but can save the healthcare system money in the long run when the diseases (like polio or cancer) don’t develop fully and need expensive treatment.
- Public Health applications in Healthcare – this is the effort of healthcare to improve itself. It involves things like prioritisation of patients, assessment of current practices, and research into how to improve the current practices. This starts the cycle of improvement that occurs in healthcare and encourages changes in policy to make the system more accessible or efficient.
Types of Prevention
There are three types of prevention that can be applied in Healthcare.
- Primary prevention is the process of trying to prevent a disease from occurring in the first place. This includes interventions like immunisations, healthcare-endorsed weight loss programs, and the use of fluoride toothpaste.
- Secondary prevention is the process of detecting disease in its early stages, before it becomes serious. This includes things like screening programs for breast and prostate cancer.
- Tertiary prevention is the process of trying to prevent the negative consequences of an already established disease. This includes things like insulin therapy for Type II Diabetics and giving alcoholics B Vitamin supplements to reduce the symptoms of their alcoholism.
Edited by: Thomas Burnell