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Constructed by GHN Supercourse group
Epidemiologic transition and Health
Today, it is widely assumed that with increasing economic
growth, the developing countries will follow the same path as Europe and
North America and experience what has become known as the "epidemiologic
transition." This term describes the changing patterns of disease that
accompanied overall improvements in health in the late 19th and early 20th
Century. As mortality rates declined and life expectancy rose, these
populations experienced a shift in the pattern of disease, from one
dominated by infectious diseases to one dominated by chronic disorders such
as heart disease and cancer. The shift to chronic diseases can be partly
explained by the fact that many more people were living to the age when
chronic diseases strike. Even so, this transition represented not just a
simple substitution of one set of problems for another but an overall
improvement in health. Elements of this epidemiologic transition are in fact
occurring now, to varying degrees, throughout much of the developing world.
In some of the middle-income countries of Latin America and Asia, for
instance, chronic diseases now take as great or an even greater toll than
1. Christopher J. L. Murray and Alan D. Lopez, eds., The Global Burden of Disease: Volume 1 (World Health Organization,Harvard School of Public Health, and The World Bank, Geneva, 1996), p. 18.
2. A. Rossi-Espagnet, G.B. Goldstein, and I. Tabibzadeh, "Urbanization and Health in Developing Countries: A Challenge for Health for All," World Health Statistics Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 4 (1991), p. 208.