The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “Population Health” as “an opportunity for health care systems, agencies and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve.”

Simply explained, population health is the study of health outcomes found in a group of individuals and can often be used to determine the overall health of a community.

For example, in the spring of 2022 the 1889 Jefferson Center for Population Health (CPH) joined forces with the 1889 Foundation, Conemaugh Health System, and the United Way of the Laurel Highlands to launch a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA).

A CHNA is a systematic collection, assembly, analysis, and dissemination of information about the health of the community. The assessment’s role was to identify factors that affect the health of Cambria and Somerset County. The goal of the CHNA is to help augment other community wellness and redevelopment efforts in the region already underway. The data collected will support the decisions made.

The assessment surveyed Cambria and Somerset County residents, health system employees, and community based organizations. There were also two different in –person focus groups to compile information.

After collecting the data, the assessment showed that the top issues in 2022 in the two county region are:

  1. Mental/Behavioral Health
  2. Access to Social Determinant of Health Needs/Healthcare
  3. Obesity/Healthy Living
  4. Substance Use
  5. Socioeconomics/Jobs Training
  6. Early Childhood
  7. Violence/Abuse/Safety

While in no particular order, action plans will be developed around these seven issues to improve the health of residents in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Population health issues include a wide variety of topics like life expectancy and infant mortality, but also includes research into factors that influence health from a societal level such as income inequality, gender, race, education, access to healthy foods, and more. These factors are known as social determinants of health (SDOH), which are the conditions are under which people are born, grow, live, work, and age.

According to Healthy People 2030, SDOHs account for 40% of a person’s overall health.

Over time, if a whole-person approach to healthcare is taken, the population health of an area can be improved.