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The health needs of a population derive from the prevalence of diseases, i.e. the numbers of people suffering from different types of illness.
Looking only at the numbers of patients currently being treated for a disease does not show the true prevalence and impact on the population’s health. At any given time there are many people who have a disease but are not aware of it because they have not yet been diagnosed.
A robust and well-researched disease prevalence model can help commissioners to assess the true needs of their community, calculate the level of services needed and invest the appropriate level of resources for prevention, early detection, treatment and care.
Prevalence models provide estimates of underlying prevalence derived from population statistics and scientific research on the risk factors for each disease.
The models can also be used to support case-finding by identifying those areas where detection rates are low and targeting enhanced diagnostic activity on them.
The models also feature in the PHOs' National General Practice Profiles, which also include the ratio of the measured prevalence from GP QOF disease register to the expected prevalence from the models. This indicator helps to identify under-diagnosis and supports measures for detection (case finding).
Prevalence models and observed vs expected ratios are also included in NHS comparators, which is available to registered users with an NHS email address.
Several of the disease prevalence models were initially developed by the Association of Public Health Observatories using funding from the Informing Healthier Choices programme.