ABSTRACT

The term ‘Epidemiological Transition’ is attributed to the American-domiciled but Egyptian-born Abdel Omran (1925-99). In seminal papers from the late 1960s, Omran argued that there was an observable sequence of disease patterns linked to economic and societal development. This notion captures how patterns of disease and morbidity shape population health. The word ‘epidemiology’ comes from the Greek words epi, meaning ‘on’ or ‘upon’, demos, meaning ‘people’, and logos, meaning ‘the study of’. The Epidemiological Transition implies changes in the distribution and the determinants of mortality and disease. In Omran’s various accounts there are transition points from one state, or stage, to another. The term is now frequently cited in the public health, not just the specialist epidemiological literature, and has acquired wider resonance. An alternative term, the ‘Health Transition’, originally proffered by John Caldwell, according to historian John Riley ‘links changes in mortality to those of morbidity, or sickness, and to the modern decline of fertility’.1 The term ‘Health Transition’ is easier on the ear and, by putting morbidity into a more central focus, claims to offer greater clarity and relevance to modern public health. The question is whether this alternative title is that different to the term and model offered by Omran or whether it is an extension or modification.