Medical Council of Canada

Medical expert

Assessing and Measuring Health Status at the Population Level - 78-2


Knowing the health status of the population allows for better planning and evaluation of health programs and tailoring interventions to meet patient/community needs. Physicians are also active participants in disease surveillance programs, encouraging them to address health needs in the population and not merely health demands.

Key Objectives

  • Describe the health status of a defined population.
  • Measure and record the factors that affect the health status of a population with respect to the principles of causation.

Enabling Objectives

  • Know how to access and collect health information to describe the health of a population:
    • Describe the types of data and common components (both qualitative and quantitative) used in creating a community health needs assessment.
    • Be aware of important sources of clinical / population-level health data and recognise the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
    • Critically evaluate possible sources of data to describe the health of a population including the importance of accurate coding and recording of health information.
    • Describe the uncertainty associated with capturing data on the number of events and populations at risk.
    • Understand surveillance systems and the role of physicians and public health in reporting and responding to disease.
  • Analyze population health data using appropriate measures:
    • Apply the principles of epidemiology in analyzing common office and community health situations.
    • Describe the concepts of, and be able to calculate, incidence, prevalence, attack rates, case fatality rates and to understand the principles of standardization.
    • Discuss different measures of association including relative risk, odds ratios, attributable risk and correlations.
  • Interpret and present the analysis of health status indicators:
    • Demonstrate an ability to use practice-based health information systems to monitor the health of patients and to identify unmet health needs.
    • Understand the appropriate use of different graphical presentations of data.
    • Describe criteria for assessing causation.
    • Demonstrate an ability to critically appraise and incorporate research findings with particular reference to the following elements:
      • characteristics of study designs (RCT, cohort, case-control, cross sectional);
      • measurement issues (validity, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value; bias, confounding; error, reliability);
      • measures of health and disease (incidence and prevalence rates, distributions; measures of central tendency) and sampling.
    • Apply the principles of epidemiology by accurately discussing the implications of the measures.
Next: Interventions at the Population Level