Population Health Policies and Programs

Originally posted 5/18/2010

As the model shows, policies and programs play an important role in health improvement through their influence on health factors as well as health outcomes.

The finite and generally scarce nature of available resources for population health improvement creates an imperative for focusing on those policies and programs that have been shown to be most effective. However, because tight resources also limit the quantity and quality of evidence on any given policy or program, it can be very challenging for those working to improve health to determine the best course of action. Fortunately, a growing number of online resources help point to recommended policies and programs. 

Policies can be implemented at many different levels, from an individual school or worksite to municipalities, regions, states, and even the national level. Examples of effective health policies include smoking bans, excise taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, seat belt laws, water fluoridation, and restaurant menu labeling. There is an increasing call for a “health in all policies” approach among population health academic and practice leaders. Emerging in response to a growing understanding and recognition of the many different factors that influence health, “health in all policies” underscores the need for policymakers in various sectors such as education, housing, transportation, agriculture, development, environment, and others to carefully examine the health implications of the policies they put into place.

Programs aimed at population health improvement are extremely diverse and address the full range of health determinants/factors. They not only encompass efforts to improve access to health care and individual behavior but also work to create healthy options and opportunities in the environments where people live, learn, work, and play.

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