The Population Health Model: A Timely Approach for Mission Hospitals


  • Richard Thomas University of Tennessee Health Science Center
  • Niels French Mission Integration Division, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Memphis, TN



mission hospital, population health


Mission hospitals have long provided a source of care, healing, and spiritual support for populations around the world, often serving the disadvantaged and rural residents not served by other facilities. Yet the future of mission hospitals has been thrown into doubt, and options for repurposing these institutions must be explored. The approach of mission hospitals to healthcare delivery has historically differed from those of other health systems (including many faith-based facilities) due to their isolated locations in lower-income countries. The multi-purpose attributes of mission hospitals make them excellent candidates for adopting a population health approach. The population health model, as now being developed in the United States, represents a radical departure from traditional clinical practice and reduces the system’s dependence on clinical care as a means to improving community health. The population health model emphasizes treatment of populations rather than individuals, a holistic approach to the provision of care (addressing social determinants in the process), and the involvement of the community in multi-sector collaboration for collective impact. Mainstream hospitals have had difficulty in implementing a true population health model for a variety of reasons, but mission hospitals appear to represent an effective vehicle for putting this model into practice. A population health approach appears to complement the philosophy of mission hospitals, and mission hospitals appear positioned to advance the population health movement.

Author Biographies

Richard Thomas, University of Tennessee Health Science Center

MA, PhD, is vice president of Health and Performance Resources in Memphis, Tennessee, and has been involved in healthcare market research and consultation with hospitals, clinics, health plans, and other healthcare organizations in both the public and private sectors for more than 40 years. He holds a faculty appointment at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and is a research associate at the Social Science Research Center at Mississippi State University. Dr. Thomas is active in publishing and has authored or co-authored more than 20 books on health-related topics, most notably health services planning, healthcare market research, and the demography of health and healthcare. He has authored dozens of articles on healthcare and given numerous presentations, seminars, and workshops on related subjects. He previously served as the editor of Marketing Health Services, the healthcare journal of the American Marketing Association. Dr. Thomas holds MAs in sociology and geography from the University of Memphis and a PhD in medical sociology from Vanderbilt University.

Niels French, Mission Integration Division, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Memphis, TN

MA(economics), Director, Mission Integration Division, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, Memphis, TN


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How to Cite

Thomas, R., & French, N. (2020). The Population Health Model: A Timely Approach for Mission Hospitals. Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(5), 82–88.