Shared language for shared work in population health

C. J. Peek, John M. Westfall, Kurt C. Stange, Winston Liaw, Bernard Ewigman, Jennifer E. Devoe, Larry A. Green, Molly E. Polverento, Nirali Bora, Frank V. Degruy, Peter G. Harper, Nancy J. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


People working on behalf of population health, community health, or public health often experience confusion or ambiguity in the meaning of these and other common terms—the similarities and differences and how they bear on the tasks and division of labor for care delivery and public health. Shared language must be clear enough to help, not hinder people working together as they ultimately come to mutual understanding of roles, responsibilities, and actions in their joint work. Based on an iterative lexicon development process, the authors developed and propose a definitional framework as an aid to navigating among related population and community health terms. These terms are defined, similarities and differences clarified, and then organized into 3 categories that reflect goals, realities, and ways to get the job done. Goals include (a) health as well-being for persons, (b) population health as that goal expressed in measurable terms for groups, and (c) community health as population health for particular communities of interest, geography, or other defining characteristic—groups with shared identity and particular systemic influences on health. Realities are social determinants as influences, health disparities as effects, and health equity as both a goal and a design prin-ciple. Ways to get the job done include health care delivery systems for enrollees and public health in population-based civic activities—with a broad zone of collaboration where streams of effort converge in partnership with served communities. This map of terms can enable people to move forward together in a broad zone of collaboration for health with less confusion, ambiguity, and conflict.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-456
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021


  • Definitions
  • Lexicon
  • Population health
  • Primary care public health integration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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