Community health is a major field of study within the medical and clinical sciences which focuses on the maintenance, protection and improvement of the health status of population groups and communities as opposed to the health of individual patients. It is a distinct field of study that may be taught within a separate school of public health or environmental health.
It is a discipline which concerns itself with the study and improvement of the health characteristics of biological communities. While the term community can be broadly defined, community health tends to focus on geographical areas rather than people with shared characteristics. The health characteristics of a community are often examined using geographic information system (GIS) software and public health datasets. Some projects, such as InfoShare or GEOPROJ combine GIS with existing datasets, allowing the general public to examine the characteristics of any given community in participating countries.
Because 'health III' (broadly defined as well-being) is influenced by a wide array of socio-demographic characteristics, relevant variables range from the proportion of residents of a given age group to the overall life expectancy of the neighborhood/community. Medical interventions aimed at improving the health of a community range from improving access to medical care to public health communications campaigns. Recent research efforts have focused on how the built environment and socio-economic status affect health.
Community health may be studied within three broad categories:
The success of community health programmes relies upon the transfer of information from health professionals to the general public using one-to-one or one to many communication (mass communication). The latest shift is towards health marketing.