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Demography and public health 

Demography and public health
Demography and public health

Emily Grundy

and Michael Murphy

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date: 05 July 2022

The health and health care needs of a population cannot be measured or met without knowledge of its size and characteristics. Demography is concerned with this and with understanding population dynamics - how populations change in response to the interplay between fertility, mortality and migration. This understanding is a pre-requisite for making the forecasts about future population size and structure which should underpin health care planning. Such analyses necessitate a review of the past. The number of very old people in a population, for example, depends on the number of births eight or nine decades earlier and risks of death at successive ages throughout the intervening period. The proportion of very old people depends partly on this numerator but more importantly on the denominator, the size of the population as a whole. The number of births in a population depends on current patterns of family building, and also on the number of women 'at risk' of reproduction - itself a function of past trends in fertility and mortality. Similarly, the number and causes of deaths are strongly influenced by age structure. Demography is largely concerned with answering questions about how populations change and their measurement. The broader field of population studies embraces questions of why these changes occur, and with what consequences. This chapter presents information on demographic methods and data sources and their application to health and population issues, together with information on demographic trends and their implications and the major theories about demographic change in order to elucidate the complex inter-relationship between population change and human health.

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