What is Epidemiologic Transition?

The epidemiologic transition refers to relatively constant patterns of changes in patterns of disease as societies develop. It used to be thought that the epidemiological transition was an unidirectional process, beginning when infectious diseases were predominant and ending when noncommunicable diseases dominated the causes of death. However, it has become apparent that this transition is more complex and dynamic. The health and disease patterns of a society evolve in assorted ways as a result of demographic, socioeconomic, technological, cultural, environmental and biological changes. It is rather a continuous transformation process, with some diseases disappearing and others appearing or re-emerging. This also indicates that the process is not unidirectional. A reversal of the trend sometimes occurs. There are some examples, such as the emergence of new infectious diseases like AIDS, and the increase in infections that were previously controlled, such as tuberculosis and dengue fever.

The early theory of health transitions in populations became popularized by Abdel Omran. His 1971 essay on epidemiologic transitions in societies outlined five determinants in relation to the transitions. He considered the factors to be ecobiological, socioeconomic, phychological, medical technology, and public health. Omran also classified the transitions into classical, accelerated, and contemporary. The classical transition being the progression from high mortality and fertility to low mortality and fertility. The accelerated transition refers to a rapid decline in mortality rate. The contemporary transition is characterized as slow and unsteady decline in mortality, yet with high fertility rates which equates to population growth.

It is also important to note that several stages of transition may overlap in the same country. For example, the decline in infectious diseases may be slow or inactive among some sectors of the population while noncommunicable diseases may be increasing rapidly in another part of the same population. This is still happening in many societies of the Eastern Mediterranean Region where the less wealthy sectors have a high incidence of infectious diseases among children while the more affluent sectors show completely different patterns of illness.

References: Cappuccio, Francesco P. Epidemiological Transition, Migration, and Cardiovascular Disease. International Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 33, Number 2, pp. 387-388. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/33/2/387.


1.The epidemiologic transition refers to constant patterns of changes in patterns of disease as develop.
A) relationships
B) government
C) society
D) humans
(Answer: C)

2.The health and disease patterns are NOT a result of:
A) governmental
B) cultural
C) technological
D) demographic
(Answer: A)

3. T/F The decline in infectious diseases may be slow or inactive among some sectors of the population.
(Answer: True)