Thursday, 20 January, 2022

Subtlety between Individual Health and Population Health

Rashawan Raziur Rouf

Subtlety between Individual Health and Population Health

Popular News

Despite the fact that there are subtle variations between individual health and population health, people at random end up conflating the two. This eventually bores biased reduction ability of the notion to reality by ensuring insignificant critical holistic approach in the mainstream decision-making process.

According to John E. Gordon, Professor of epidemiology and preventive medicine, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard University School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, “The study of disease as a mass phenomenon differs from the study of disease in the individual primarily in respect to the unit of investigation. It is early appreciated that the herd, the crowd or the community is not a simple aggregate of the persons comprising that grouped population, but that each universe of people is an entity, a composite that possesses as much individuality as does a person.”

This proposition is explicitly cross-validated when population-level decisions are negated after being made on the basis of individual health characteristics.

To begin with, when one speaks about health and disease, it is usually in terms of individuals. Elodie Giroux recently published a study that emphasized the small variations between Individual Health and Population Health. There he underscored the following variations:

Subtlety between Individual Health and Population Health

Individual-level health parameters deviate from population-level health parameters due to the following subtle differences:

1. Both population and individual level health parameters are useful for action and analysis. They could even be analyzed via the lens of their own interactions. Individual health parameters, on the other hand, are less exclusive while still playing a significant effect.

2. The ontological relationship between individual-level health parameters and population-level health parameters is rather autonomous. Thus, applying the concept of health to a population necessitates a prior enrichment of our ontological concepts. To help with the understanding of Ontological notions, Ontology is the discipline of philosophy that investigates concepts like existence, being, becoming, and reality. It addresses how entities are classified into basic categories and which of these entities exist at the most fundamental level. Simply saying, categorizing unique entities into fundamental and basic groups based on their existential spectrum.

3. Finally, the health indicators of individuals and groups are very specific to normativity. Thus, generalizing an individual’s or a group’s health assessments bears biased reducibility at the population level. This, rather than improving results, adds to the anguish of many. To clarify the notion of normativity - it is the phenomenon in human cultures of defining some actions or outcomes as good, desirable, or permissible while labelling others as bad, undesirable, or impermissible. And normative in general refers to relating to an evaluative standard. Individual health characteristics or those of a group should always be treated as a single entity since socio-cultural and socio-economic factors influence decision-making protocols at the population level.

Thus critical holistic approach gets rightfully rationalized when both the pre-existing ontological concepts and normative approach envisage the mainstream decision-making protocols. But these concepts are rarely observed these days. Decisions are still being adopted after pooling the attributes of specific groups of individual health to the population level. Thus when this sort of decision is taken at the national level disregarding the normativity, there is every possibility that a lot of individuals’ health in other groups will go disregarded, limiting the generalizability. Hence, the pertinence and validity of the concept of individual health to population health need to be examined once again.


The writer is a 4th year student, Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College, Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, Dhaka. Email: [email protected]