PREDICTING the full impact of health interventions and planning services could become easier following the development of a new framework designed specifically for primary care. The Leicester SEARCH, created by researchers from the University of Leicester, Leicester, UK, could improve understanding of factors that affect people’s health and lead to new ways of tackling the challenges faced by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Range of Factors
The effectiveness of new healthcare interventions, such as a particular treatment or screening strategy, are influenced by numerous personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that are currently not sufficiently taken into account at a primary care level in the UK.
Dr Louis Levene, University of Leicester, explained: “Population health is complex and is described by multiple variables, not just related to diseases themselves. Solutions based on addressing single variables often do not work as planned. Researchers and service providers need to have a suitable means of understanding what is happening and may need to tie together a wide range of factors. Ours is the first framework to consider population health comprehensively from a primary care perspective.”
There are two main parts to the framework. One is an illness pathway in populations, consisting of three groups of variables: determinants of illness; how these impact populations; and finally, prediction of the health-related outcomes in populations. The second relates to the modifiers of this illness pathway, containing two groups of variables: context, the non-medical factors that describe the settings in which the populations are located; and interventions, including health and social care.
It is hoped that modelling illness in this way will pave the way for more informed discussion about how to effectively meet healthcare needs in the NHS, potentially leading to policy changes at national, regional, or local level.
Dr Levene added: “Primary care should focus not only on the needs of individual patients, but also have a population perspective and recognise how non-disease related factors contribute to health needs and outcomes. Hopefully, using our framework may help both research and services to increase their understanding of population health, which can ultimately lead to better outcomes.”
Early use of the framework by the team has helped highlight anomalies in the funding of general practices and the decline in continuity in care in recent years.
James Coker, Reporter
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