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Seven out of 10 deaths worldwide and 85% of deaths in low- and middle-income countries can be attributed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like cancer, diabetes, and asthma (CDC, n.d.). In public health, they are also referred to as chronic diseases. The World Health Organization recognizes mortality related to NCDs as an

invisible epidemic

and an under-appreciated cause of poverty hindering the economic development of many countries.

Aside from lifestyle and environmental factors that are known to contribute to these diseases, literature is now emerging on the role of industrialization and climate change. E.g. In low- and middle-income countries, we see a rapid transition to higher rates of obesity and NCD mortality and lower infectious disease mortality.

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The theory of epidemiologic transition was developed by Omran (1971) who proposed that changes in socio-demographic and environmental variables lead to specific transitions in patterns of health and disease. For example, low- and middle-income countries that industrialize see a reduction in communicable diseases and an increase in chronic NCDs. The task of managing data on a global basis is monumental, and as data has accrued so the theory has been modified to take account of different models of transition. One major effort to manage these data is the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019 (GBD 2019 Demographics Collaborators, 2020), which aims to bring together all available epidemiological reports so that comparisons of health loss can be made across causes and populations (Birn et al., 2017; Murray, 2015).

In this Discussion, you will consider the role of public health professionals and the needs of the people they care for in light of the epidemiologic transition theory. Conceptually, the theory of epidemiologic transition focuses on the complex change in patterns of health and disease and on the interactions between these patterns and their demographic, economic, and sociologic determinants and consequences (Birn et al., 2017). The epidemiologic transition describes changing population patterns of population age distributions, mortality, fertility, life expectancy, and causes of death.

To Prepare

Review the module Learning Resources.


epidemiologic transition

and research how it applies to the world today.

Note: The

epidemiologic transition

is but one theory. Another view is the ecosocial theory of disease distribution (Kriger, 2020), which situates both population health and epidemiologic theory in a social and ecologic context. (See the Optional Resources.)

By Day 4 of Week 6

Post a response in which you:

Describe two challenges to public health systems and professionals when addressing communicable, epidemic-level diseases as well as chronic health issues.

Explain how these two challenges could be addressed moving forward.

Explain the theory of epidemiological transition in relation to two public health problems, with scholarly references.

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