A professor at Penn State Worthington Scranton talks to two nursing students in a classroom hospital room.

Enhancing Health

Penn State will be a leader in promoting quality of life through comprehensive approaches to enhancing personalized and population health, achieved through a commitment to and investment in relevant research, education, clinical practice, and outreach.

The centerpiece of this vision is recognition of the multiple factors that contribute to overall health—including individual biology and behaviors, the environment and contexts in which people live and work, the quality of their health care, and public health policies and programs. By striving to understand people in all their complexity and the environmental and social determinants of health, we can leverage that knowledge to create innovative programs, policies, products, and practices for research, education, engagement, and patient care that will improve health and well-being.

We use the descriptor “personalized health” in a holistic fashion to include all aspects of individual health (including physical, mental, and emotional health, among others), while “population health” refers to the broad, holistic health outcomes of groups of individuals (such as people at a workplace or the population of a U.S. state, a nation, or geographic region). Penn State, in partnership with Penn State Health, will play critical roles in addressing important trends in understanding, managing, and promoting health.

The complexity of health insurance offerings and health care options requires consumers to make educated, thoughtful decisions and prioritize their own health and wellness. Likewise, pressures will intensify for health care providers to focus on disease prevention and improving health care value.

The aging of the worldwide population is a demographic development that puts unprecedented pressures on global health care systems. World travel and the frequent interaction of humans and animals may foster the emergence of new threats, calling for community and health system preparedness and resilience.  Scientific progress in the areas of “omics” (such as genomics, nutrigenomics, metabolomics, and proteomics) and technology developments will enable health care providers and prevention scientists to pinpoint disease outbreaks geographically and tailor clinical treatment and health interventions to specific communities and individuals, leading to more effective and efficient use of resources.

The focus on personalized and population health is broadly applicable, relevant for: children, for whom preventing disease offers great potential immediately and in terms of long-term health; adolescents and young adults, who are establishing lifestyles and preparing to become parents to the next generation; older adults, whose health problems collectively put the most pressure on health care resources; and socioeconomically vulnerable groups who too often lack access to quality medical care. A focus on personalized and population health capitalizes on our highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment and builds on recent Penn State investments in key areas such as genomics, demography and population health, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurosciences, health symptoms and environmental exposures, health disparities, infectious disease, and real-time collection of data on daily health-related experiences. 

Advance discovery in personalized and population health.

Penn State will be a leader in collaborative, interdisciplinary research on personalized and population health, with robust activities ranging from basic to applied science. This leadership includes research on environmental and social contexts and social determinants of health and how they intersect with biological determinants of health.

Create innovative academic programs in personalized and population health.

Penn State will create innovative, interdisciplinary, and joint professional-graduate and postgraduate programs that focus on personalized and population health. Research and graduate education go hand in hand. A vibrant cadre of scholars engaged in interdisciplinary research in this area will help to unite faculty from different academic units and campuses around the themes of personalized and population health and facilitate the creation of curricular options focused on both.

Build synergistic partnerships to influence population health.

We will increase Penn State’s engagement as a partner across the Commonwealth in improving health care and health-related outcomes. An ongoing, collaborative relationship will help address Pennsylvania’s health-related challenges, including, but not limited to, childhood obesity, addiction, and community health disparities, and drive analysis of state health data and translation of research findings into public education programs, outreach, and best practices.

Facilitate wellness within the Penn State community.

Because our University is only as strong as its people, we will invest in innovative, multi-pronged, institution-wide health initiatives that inspire faculty, staff, and students to focus proactively on their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. The effort across all Penn State campuses will encourage faculty, staff, and students alike to pursue recommended preventive health care services and educate them about behaviors (such as physical activity, healthy eating and drinking, smoking prevention and cessation, and stress management) that experts agree promote health and prolong life.

Inform governmental health policy.

Evidence-based health policy is essential for effective efforts to enhance the health of individuals and populations. Penn State will provide leadership in conducting policy-relevant health research and in training public health practitioners who understand the importance of evidence for public health policy and practice.