Updated: September 2020
IAPHS is a big-tent scientific community dedicated to advancing population health science in the service of improved health, well-being and health equity. It recognizes that effectively addressing population health challenges requires the contributions of people with diverse skills and perspectives. It brings into its tent individuals who differ with respect to scientific discipline, employment sector, career stage, life experience, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender expression, ability, political persuasion, and cultural values.
The IAPHS Philosophy
As a scientific organization, IAPHS recognizes that population health is more than just the aggregation of individual health outcomes. The values of IAPHS reinforce the goal of health equity for all by ensuring that all people have an equal and robust opportunity to be healthy. IAPHS believes in promoting accountability to this goal by assessing the extent to which social, economic, and political structures are able to minimize inequalities in health across individuals in a population while maximizing average population health. The scientific perspective of IAPHS stresses that improvements in population health require not only individual interventions, but also structural and systemic changes that improve the conditions in which health happens. It takes special note of the power of structural and contextual determinants of population health, and the importance of understanding the pathways, operating at multiple levels, through which these determinants produce health and disease.
Securing population health is a team effort. For this reason, IAPHS sets itself apart from similar organizations by the degree to which it effectively transcends disciplinary boundaries and promotes inter-sectoral communication and collaboration. IAPHS believes that advances in population health depend on integrating knowledge from the social, behavioral, health, and biological sciences as well as practice fields such as education, health care, social work, urban planning, and more. IAPHS aspires to develop disciplinarily multilingual scientists able to communicate across fields and combine their own expertise with that of others to produce novel outcomes including policies, results, or improvements.
IAPHS’s central concern is with health in geographic and politically-defined populations, as well as across subgroups characterized by age, socioeconomic status, race or ethnicity, among other factors. However, IAPHS recognizes that the promotion of population health requires the bridging of population and individual health concerns, bringing together population health science and clinical medicine. IAPHS has a strong interest in being a bridge between these perspectives, creating opportunities for dialogue between health care leaders and population health scientists.
IAPHS defines science broadly as any and all activities that involve a disciplined approach to producing generalizable knowledge through observation and/or experimentation. This can include the neuroscientist seeking to understand how stress responses reduce immunity to disease, the historian studying the evolution of food systems, the architect investigating how building designs affect health, and the implementation scientist studying factors that facilitate the adoption of new policies and practices.
IAPHS is committed to impactful science. It places a high value on both practice-based research and research-based practice. It actively seeks to engage nonscientists, in government and the private sector, who are working to improve health on the ground in local, state, and national and international contexts, recognizing that these decision-makers have direct influence on the social determinants of health. It seeks to foster exchange and collaboration between scientists and practitioners in order to create practical knowledge that can inform the improvement of existing approaches and the development of new alternatives. It seeks to legitimize and support many kinds of research – applied, translational, implementation, research conducted in partnership with policy and practice communities – that are traditionally undervalued in academia.
How IAPHS works
IAPHS has a three-part mission to create a community of scholars and practitioners committed to population health.
First, IAPHS embraces a mission of advancing the science of population health. It designs activities that encourage interdisciplinary exchange and a safe space for risk-taking in the development of new theory, methods, data, and scientific thinking appropriate to the challenges of population health science. It promotes respectful and open debate that is grounded in a scientific approach to the issues, and it welcomes challenges to existing assumptions. Annual conferences connect population health scientists across disciplines, providing a shared space that allows scholars and practitioners to network, exchange knowledge, form collaborations, and mutually support and enhance their shared interests. The IAPHS blog, webinars, website, newsletters, and social media presence deepen the connections that are generated by in-person meetings and offer ongoing opportunities for dialogue, discussion, and debate that can advance the field.
Second, IAPHS promotes the communication and application of population health science by fostering exchange between scientists and public health professionals and policy makers. In its conferences, workshops, webinars, Blog, and social media, IAPHS works to bridge gaps between science and its application in practice. IAPHS aspires to train scientists at all career levels to more effectively communicate the practical implications of their work, forge partnerships with policymakers, make their research agendas more responsive to needs on the ground, and conduct translational research in the field to test the effectiveness of policies shaped by interdisciplinary research. It aspires to engage policy makers and practitioners in its activities to provide the latest insights and data to inform their work.
Third, IAPHS supports population health scientists in their careers by providing mentoring, training, and other forms of professional development. It hosts an active Student Committee that organizes webinars and events at the annual conference, workshops that focus on challenges in population health science careers, a mentoring program that matches population health professionals with mentors outside their institutions, an awards program that recognizes early career achievement, and an announcements program that advertises population health opportunities. IAPHS holds a deep commitment to nurturing the next generation of interdisciplinary population health scholars, providing a supportive home for the diverse set of scientists and practitioners who are committed to working together, across disciplines and sectors, to improve population health.