Dr. Rao is a family doctor in Goosefoot, a small industrial town in Canada. The town has a population of 15,000 and is 2 hours by road from the nearest city, Weenigo. Goosefoot was built around the iron ore mining and forestry industries, but these are experiencing difficult times. One forestry operation closed 5 years ago and the mine is laying workers off. A proportion of its workers commute to the oil sands project and some have left permanently. Times are tough.

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Contents at a Glance

Main Case Study

Dr. Rao is a family doctor in Goosefoot, a small industrial town in Canada. The town has a population of 15,000 and is 2 hours by road from the nearest city, Weenigo. Goosefoot was built around the iron ore mining and forestry industries, but these are experiencing difficult times. One forestry operation closed 5 years ago and the mine is laying workers off. A proportion of its workers commute to the oil sands project and some have left permanently. Times are tough.

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Part 1: Theory

Over the past half-century, the Canadian population has seen unprecedented gains in longevity, health, and well-being. Improvements in the environment and in health policies, changing lifestyles and therapeutic advances have all contributed to enhancing the length and quality of life (…) Perhaps surprisingly, the improvements in health have not reduced the demands on doctors. Instead, doctors are called on to broaden the scope of what they treat (…) Dramatic medical advances are exciting, but they bring challenges and have raised concerns (…) Discussions over setting appropriate boundaries for medicine led to the surprising insight that there is no agreed criterion for defining what constitutes a disease…

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Part 2: Methods

People have claimed to be able to cure ills for as long as history has been recorded. Some cures are based on science, in that their mode of action and the principles underlying them are known. Some are known empirically to improve health, but we do not fully understand how they work. Other treatments have not been shown to be of benefit. Many have never been rigorously tested (…) Every year, approximately 2,000,000 articles summarize the results of scientific research. Many of the conclusions disagree with one another (…) No study is perfect, and yet the ideal of practising evidence-based medicine demands that clinicians base their decisions on scientific evidence...

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Part 3: Practice

The theory and methods of population and public health are translated into the essential functions of public health which include health assessment, health promotion, disease and injury prevention and protection from environmental and infectious disease. All health professionals are responsible for certain aspects of these public health functions. A public health professional intervenes at a population level. A clinician is a resource for improving the health of the whole community; a clinical practice can be organised to improve the health of individual patients and clinicians provide preventive interventions for their patients...

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Self-Test Questions

Self-tests are provided at the end of each chapter. Here are a few samples:

  1. How do the effects of colonization continue to impact on the health of Indigenous Peoples in Canada?
  2. In your capacity as advisor to the Minister of Health, how would you design and implement a series of studies to determine the relationship between personal stereo use and noise-induced hearing loss?
  3. A 42-year-old female patient living a kilometre away from overhead, high tension power lines is very worried of the lines’ effect on her health. How do you approach this case?
References

References are provided at the end of each chapter.

Glossary

A detailed and searchable Glossary is provided. Just click on the “Glossary” tab on the right-hand side of the inner Primer pages.  Here is a sample:

Confoundingsearch for term
the confusion of two separate processes in interpreting the results of an analysis of causal relations. When studying the effect of one variable on an outcome, confounding occurs when a third (and possibly a fourth or fifth) variable acting in a causal net is associated with both the variable being studied and the outcome. If this third variable is not taken into account in a study, conclusions about the relationship between the first variable and the outcome may be misinterpreted.
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Primer Contents

The AFMC Primer on Population Health has three parts and covers the objectives laid out for Canadian medical students by the Medical Council of Canada.  Part one, Theory – Thinking about Health deals with the concepts necessary to understand the population health approach. Part two, Methods – Studying Health sets out the techniques used in gathering evidence. Part three, Practice – Improving Health, explores public health practice with particular emphasis on how it relates to clinical medicine.
In addition, the Primer contains several types of supplementary text boxes:

  • Definitions explain terms in the text which may be new to readers. The definitions have also been gathered into a glossary which can be used as a quick revision tool.
  • There are links to supplementary reading resources.
  • Examples from real life illustrating the concepts under discussion.
  • "Nerds' corner" boxes contain material of interest to readers afflicted with an enquiring mind.
  • "Here be Dragons" warns about common misperceptions that should be eschewed.

There is a Main Case Scenario introducing Dr. Rao and some of his patients who appear in various chapters to help illustrate the relevance of public health concepts to clinical practice. Each chapter ends with self- test questions and references.  The text can be searched using free text; definitions of terms are revealed using the mouse, and links lead from a list of the Medical Council of Canada’s learning objectives to the relevant text.
Read the Primer from the beginning or jump ahead to the chapter of interest to you.  Feedback is welcome and encouraged through our e-Community, and you can find supplemental resources in our library.

View the entire Primer contents.

View the Primer structure.