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The development and experience of epidemiological transition theory over four decades: a systematic review

Santosa, A; Wall, S; Fottrell, E; Hogberg, U; Byass, P; (2014) The development and experience of epidemiological transition theory over four decades: a systematic review. Global Health Action , 7 (1) , Article 23574. 10.3402/gha.v7.23574. Green open access

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Abstract

Background: Epidemiological transition (ET) theory, first postulated in 1971, has developed alongside changes in population structures over time. However, understandings of mortality transitions and associated epidemiological changes remain poorly defined for public health practitioners. Here, we review the concept and development of ET theory, contextualising this in empirical evidence, which variously supports and contradicts the original theoretical propositions. / Design: A Medline literature search covering publications over four decades, from 1971 to 2013, was conducted. Studies were included if they assessed human populations, were original articles, focused on mortality and health or demographic or ET and were in English. The reference lists of the selected articles were checked for additional sources. / Results: We found that there were changes in emphasis in the research field over the four decades. There was an increasing tendency to study wide-ranging aspects of the determinants of mortality, including risk factors, lifestyle changes, socio-economics, and macro factors such as climate change. Research on ET has focused increasingly on low- and middle-income countries rather than industrialised countries, despite its origins in industrialised countries. Countries have experienced different levels of progress in ET in terms of time, pace, and underlying mechanisms. Elements of ET are described for many countries, but observed transitions have not always followed pathways described in the original theory. / Conclusions: The classic ET theory largely neglected the critical role of social determinants, being largely a theoretical generalisation of mortality experience in some countries. This review shows increasing interest in ET all over the world but only partial concordance between established theory and empirical evidence. Empirical evidence suggests that some unconsidered aspects of social determinants contributed to deviations from classic theoretical pathways. A better-constructed, revised ET theory, with a stronger basis in evidence, is needed.

Type: Article
Title: The development and experience of epidemiological transition theory over four decades: a systematic review
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.3402/gha.v7.23574
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/gha.v7.23574
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: epidemiological transition, demographic transition, mortality, social determinants
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1433359
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