They may not seem related, but Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, says we can approach guns, obesity and opioids in the same manner: population health. Dr. Galea breaks down the key concepts of population health – a relatively new field – during the inaugural Colloquium on Population Health and Health Equity at the UCSF School of Medicine.
Dr. Galea argues guns, obesity and opioids are the three epidemics of our time, and three of the main reasons life expectancy is declining in the United States. They also share three key characteristics: They are important, costly health concerns. They are complex. They are resistant to simple solutions. The key to overcoming these challenges Dr. Galea says, is using the population health approach.
He lists nine principles of population health, but focuses on four, including the concept that small changes in ubiquitous causes of health problems can have a greater impact than big changes to rare causes. Dr. Galea uses the example that while much has been done to curb the overprescription of opioids, the epidemic continues to grow. That’s because other options, like synthetic opioids, have become more widely available. Dr. Galea says that’s where population health comes in – finding ways to improve health on a large scale, and addressing epidemics from every angle.