The objective of this study was to compare and contrast clinical epidemiology and population health perspectives on the role of health care in reducing socioeconomic disparities in health.
To conduct the study, the authors undertook a review of concepts outlined in selected articles on population health and clinical epidemiology, as well as a systematic literature search for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of therapeutic interventions for cardiovascular disease that contained analysis of outcomes by socioeconomic status.
Population health has a focus on health disparities, particularly disparities related to socioeconomic status, and many of its proponents have a pessimistic view of the degree to which health care can reduce these disparities. Clinical epidemiology has a focus on the production of valid evidence on the impact of health care interventions; however, RCTs rarely report the impact of interventions across socioeconomic strata. Both population health and clinical epidemiology share the view that efficacy, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness are all important in defining the impact of health care on health disparities.
Principles drawn from both population health and clinical epidemiology could be used to provide a clearer picture of the role that health care interventions can have on socioeconomic disparities in health, and to identify implications for policy, research, and clinical practice.