Determinants of Population Health

Population health perspectives focus on the need for healthy populations through a clear understanding, management, and intervention of the factors that affect people’s health in an area. Broadly, these concepts encompass vulnerability to disease, trends of disease prevalence, availability of clinical services within communities, individual awareness of health-related issues, and government regulations on healthcare activities.

Population health goes beyond an individual into communal contexts. It emphasizes an ecological approach to disease prevention and health promotion to improve patient outcomes, prevent diseases, increase health capital, and achieve affordability in healthcare services. The factors that affect population health involve diverse personal, social, economic, and environmental influences. These determinants can be categorized into policy, healthcare, social, individual, and biological factors.

Policy and healthcare factors lead to determining population health. Policies create guidelines and frameworks meant to promote healthy trends. Good policies by governments reduce health risks while promoting healthy behaviors. Examples of government-induced public health policies include increasing taxation on tobacco products and enhancing road safety standards like safety belts and speed governors. Both examples result in better population health by reducing accidents and disease prevalence (Bor et al., 2017). Healthcare factors encompass access and quality of care services. Limited availability, costliness, and the lack of health insurance policies limit populations from accessing healthcare services and lower the quality of public health (Davidson, 2019). With better healthcare access, populations meet health needs, receive timely treatments, get vaccinations, and achieve better health standards.

  Social factors that affect population health get categorized into social and physical determinants. The impact the quality of life by defining the environments in which individuals get born and grow.

Examples of social determinants of population health include:

  • The prevalence of the social disorder.
  • Crime trends in an area.
  • Quality of education.
  • Social norms.
  • Availability of job opportunities.

Conversely, physical determinants include built environments, natural environments, and physical barriers limiting individuals with disabilities (Riegelman, 2019). Trends of social factors have a direct influence on individual and population health. For example, populations dwelling in places with high crime and substance abuse trends are at higher risk of violence and addiction than those with a low prevalence.

The last set of factors affecting population health comprises individual and biological determinants. Individual elements mainly relate to behaviors that result in healthy or unhealthy outcomes. Individual health behaviors related to dieting, physical activity, substance abuse, and hygiene practices. Hence, a population with sedentary individual is at increased risk of high obesity trends. Similarly, increased smoking raises the risk of heart disease and other conditions (Davidson, 2019). Examples of biological factors include age, gender, and genetics. Being older or one gender may increase an individual’s vulnerability to various diseases and conditions. For example, the aged are at a higher risk of heart disease and respiratory diseases. Some diseases get inherited through genetic links, making populations descending from common ancestries at higher risks (Bor et al., 2017). An example of such a disease is sickle cell anemia.

In conclusion, population health determinants include policy, healthcare, social, individual, and biological factors. Policy factors relate to guidelines and frameworks that promote healthy behaviors and outcomes. They restrict the public from risky health behaviors and promote healthy ones. Access and quality of healthcare services determine whether a population remains healthy or not. Some issues in healthcare access include cost, insurance, and availability. Social factors determine the social and physical environments of a person. They affect the quality-of-life outcomes. Individual factors concern behavior and choices related to dieting, exercising, substance abuse, and hygiene. Lastly, biological factors like age, gender, and genetics also affect population health by increasing or reducing vulnerability to health risks.


Bor, J., Cohen, G. H., & Galea, S. (2017). Population health in an era of rising income inequality: USA, 1980–2015. The Lancet389(10077), 1475-1490.

Davidson, A. (2019). Social determinants of health: A comparative approach. Oxford University Press.

Riegelman, R. K. (2019). Population health: A primer for the health professions. Jones & Bartlett Learning.