But this is not, click here I suggest, a real difference, but one based on a misunderstanding of what is meant by population health. I digress here with a little philosophical musing about populations and individuals. Public health practitioners in
the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century did of course regard the population as a single ontological entity. They manipulated the environment which then had an effect on the health of the population, an entity which was conceptually treated as if it were a thing in itself, and by and large homogenous. However, by the latter half of the twentieth century, it was clear that much public health
effort and interventions were being directed at individuals through health promotion ��-Nicotinamide supplier strategies. Individual behaviour and the idea that individual behaviour was an important determinant of health was very much part of public health thinking and practice. The implication of this was that there came into being an implicit change in the ontology of the population, shifting from being an entity in its own right to being the description of a set of individuals. This change in conceptualisation has particular relevance to the genomic era, when we now all recognise the heterogeneity of populations and the role played by individual Smoothened genetic variation. No external determinant will have the same effect on an individual in exactly the same way as it will on another. Biological mechanisms, as was recognised by the great zoologist Ernst Mayr, occur in individuals. The population, he argued, is no more than an abstraction, an HM781-36B average of the individuals within it (Mayr 2004). Public health practitioners have, in recent decades, recognised the complex relationship between populations, sub-populations and individuals, and have seen their role as one which seeks, both in policy formulation
and service provision, to balance appropriately the needs of populations with those of individual citizens and patients. This is of course the tension to which Dr. Stemerding refers, one which has been recognised and dealt with by public health practitioners for many decades. At the heart of this is the emphasis on “autonomy and self-determination as fundamental values” for individuals, but as with all ethical principles, they have to be invariably balanced against other values, some of which may be inconsistent or even directly at variance with the requirements of individual autonomy. Principles are there, but in the real world, choices and judgments have to be made, as individual examples present themselves to us, even if they conflict with each other.