Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

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Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health  
Former names
British Journal of Social Medicine, British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Community Health
Abbreviated title (ISO 4)
J. Epidemiol. Community Health.
Discipline Public health, epidemiology
Language English
Edited by Martin Bobak, James R. Dunn
Publication details
Publication history
Frequency Monthly
ISSN 0143-005X (print)
1470-2738 (web)
British Journal of Social Medicine:
British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine:
Epidemiology and Community Health:
OCLC no. 05385322

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health is a peer-reviewed public health journal that covers all aspects of epidemiology and public health. It is published by the BMJ Group.


The journal was founded in 1947 by John Ryle, a highly respected physician who was regarded as "one of the most distinguished figures in contemporary medicine"[1] for his time, and has been published under various titles. Former titles are:[2]

  • 1947 - 1952: British Journal of Social Medicine
  • 1953 - 1977: British Journal of Preventive and Social Medicine
  • 1978: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health
  • March 1979: Epidemiology and Community Health
  • June 1979 – present: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

Context of Social Medicine in 1947[edit]

The journal began published its first issue in London on January of 1947 under its original name, the British Journal of Social Medicine. The journal’s current mission is to be “a truly international journal that encompasses all aspects of epidemiology and public health” which seems fairly commonplace in today’s world of globalized journals but given its beginnings in the aftermath of World War II and start of the Cold War era, the emergence of this new journal and its mission is impressive. Social medicine as a field of study had not been well respected since before World War I began due to leading social medicine researchers associating their work with racial hygiene theories so introducing a journal using this specific terminology was a bold move in itself. Creating a new journal focused on international social health during a period of high political and military tension across nations furthered the statement the journal was trying to make – social medicine is important and needs attention beyond country lines.

Trends from the 1940s to 1960s[edit]

The content in the first issue reflected the editors’ specialties. There were four articles each around 15-18 pages long in the 72 page issue. Lancelot Hogben was coauthor to two of the four which focused on molecular problems involving antibodies and blood transfusions while the remaining two pieces were epidemiological studies done in military settings – one in Italy and one in London – possibly due to Crew’s influence. Topics include maternal iso-immunization, jaundice associated with syphilis treatment and blood transfusion, infective hepatitis among allied troops in Italy, and the hematology of recruits under training. Three of the four articles in this first issue of the journal relate to health conditions due to war. Findings reported that a high standard of sterility must be used when treating syphilis in the military, and that blood transfusions using large blood products should be abandoned because of a higher risk of subsequent jaundice. Striking seasonal variations of infective hepatitis were reported as well as comparisons of outbreaks between troops and civilians. Hemoglobin levels were reported to rise after training. Each paper had several tables and hand-drawn graphs to visualize their results and methodologies yet a uniform organization to the papers did not exist. Some started off with a labeled introduction while others did not organize with sections at all. This first issue tried to cover a lot of ground, and it did with the epidemiological focus and international perspective with the Italy paper, yet it was entirely quantitative. There was no qualitative social research included in the issue, which may or may not have been purposeful. If Ryle and the editors were trying to get the idea of social medicine to be respected, they could have made the issue purposely heavy with quantitative data to get people to open up to the field before easing into more qualitative studies as well.

The first issue coming out in January 1947 set a pattern for the journal to be released four times a year during January, July, April, and October of each year. While each issue averaged around 67 pages in 1947, issues fluctuated in their size from 1948 on with issues having as little as 32 pages and as many as 87. The issue lengths were sporadic with some being shortest in January and longest in October or the opposite happening. Book reviews started being added to the journal in the January 1948 issue with the first written by Hogben on a book called “The Principles of Medical Statistics” Crew followed this lead and went on to include four book reviews in the April issue of that year and one additional book review from a colleague called “Some British Pioneers of Social Medicine” The addition of the book reviews may have been addressing the qualitative nature of social medicine not present in the articles. The reviews were on mostly textbooks and explanatory works with Crew authoring most of them following 1948, but Crew authored an obituary instead for July 1950 issue dedicated to John Ryle. The two page long obituary concludes with Crew saying “He was fortunate among men in that not only did he himself achieve great happiness in his work, but also and especially because he, a very outstanding figure in the whole field of medicine, turned in the full maturity of his days to social medicine, creating for others great opportunities to achieve the same happiness”

Richard Titmuss succeeded Ryle and under his leadership, book reviews were no longer present in the journals, each article in each issue began having designated methods, discussion, results, and the qualitative aspect of social medicine formerly represented by the book reviews was now being represented by articles in the issue. The October 1950 issue was the first with Titmuss as the chair and it had four articles along with abstracts (which will be present throughout the rest of this time period as well). Two of the four are single author papers and there is a mix of quantitative and qualitative work in the issue with one article on “A Study of Weight Gain in the First Year of Life” and one on “Statistical Utilization of Maternity and Child Welfare Records” with environmental factors and risk analysis factors being discussed in the remaining two.

Titmuss decided to change the name of the journal to the British Journal of Preventative and Social Medicine in 1953. The term social medicine began to become less popular as it did before World War II and with the Cold War era going strong, people may have begun to become averse to the term “social” because of associations with Marxism so the name change was an attempt to keep the journal relevant while keeping the social aspect that is fundamental to the journal. During the 1950s, at least one article on tuberculosis was present in each issue and a broad spectrum of health continued to be published throughout the 1950s as well with titles such as “The Contributions of the Nurse in General Practice,” “Contribution of Cigarette Smoking to Respiratory Disease,” and “A Survey of Handicapped People” all present in the January 1957 issue. In particular, the late 1950s showed an increasing focus on health delivery systems, risk factors, and more areas for preventative medicine to intervene.

As the newly named journal moved into the 1960s, an increasing international focus was portrayed through the articles. In October 1960, the issue contained eight articles with three being from Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. This issue also contained an article called “Pilot Experiment in the Rehabilitation of Long-hospitalized Male Schizophrenic Patients” which was an interesting choice since mental health had no previously been represented. This particular article was published by a woman in a department of psychiatry, which was stigmatized and still developing at the time, and the study sought to quantify mental health problems for epidemiological purposes to possibly change the stigma around mental health. The addition of this mental health article shows the broadening definition of health at this time. Further studies also followed up that pilot in coming issues, in fact, there was a two part series discussing “Social Class and Prognosis in Schizophrenia” in the January 1961 issue which shows how much attention mental health was gaining if a single author was able to put two papers, both a response to a previous paper, into the issue of only four article. The rest of the 1960s were categorized by issues surrounding lung cancers, smoking, working conditions, and school aged children and there was notable diversity in the people beginning to publish. Professionals from various fields were contributing from the UK Atomic Energy Authority to the Australian School for Public Health and in 1969, issues began being released in February, May, August, and November instead of the previous pattern.

Trends from the 1970s to 1980s[edit]

Volume 24 in 1970 maintained the same issue releases, and issue 24.1 in February featured a similar length but demonstrated a significant increase in article publications with 39 articles published on the topics: heart disease and sudden deaths, sphygmomanometer, hypothyroidism, standard psychiatric interview, seasonal incidence of congenital malformations, pregnancy and birth complications, Burkitt’s lymphoma and sickle-cell trait, patient-control studies in epidemiology, odds ratio, abdominal pain, antenatal care, lung cancer and bronchitis, eye colour, smoking habits of medical students, child development, blood pressure, absence from work, birth rank bias, malformations and influenza epidemics, television and social medicine, sociology for medical students, cardiorespiratory disease mortality, factors influencing juveniles, secondary cancers amongst patients with salivary gland tumours, lung cancer amongst iron-ore miners, Burkitt’s lymphoma and sickle-cell trait in Uganda, migration, symptoms in general practice, disability, height and weight as measures of obesity, health visitors and family planning, psychiatric diagnosis differences, consultant practices, computer-based cervical cytology service, terminal care of cancer patients, haemopoietic neoplasms, varicose veins, and ergotamine tartrate. This significant increase in content was unexpected due to the apparent tripling of article publication and reduction in article length, but rather consistent length of the issue overall: it could be questioned if the year mark 1970 influenced the length of the article to demonstrate the depth of coverage of the journal.

Volume 25 in 1971 maintained the same issue release dates from the previous two years and issue 25.1 in February featured similar length and a return of article publications to a more normal number of eight articles, covering topics: hospital bed emergency admittance, birth weight factors, secular and seasonal variations in anecephalus, arterial blood pressure and hypertension in urban Africa, geographical variations in asthma deaths, sampling in a study of older people, measures of adiposity, and the Society for Social Medicine annual report.

Volume 26 in 1972 featured the now normal issue publication dates and issue 26.1 in February featured a normal length but a return to the increased number of articles at 34 articles on the topics: perinatal and neonatal mortality, neural tube defects, congenital dislocation, mycobacterial skin ulcers, influenza, obesity in children, exposure to environmental temperatures, health centre evaluation, social medicine participation, objectives in the clinical section of the curriculum, vitamin c status screening, screening for coronary heart disease risk factors, place of birth and central nervous system malformation association, yield of disease amongst a middle aged population, screening tests for unreported elderly disability, general practitioners in England, patient’s point of view, birth control advice, prescription charges, intellectual performance of famine survivors, alcoholism treatment, behavioral changes in coronary patients, children’s smoking, home care, mortality amongst copper workers, crohn’s disease malignancy, mortality in rheumatoid arthritics, hearing impairment, epidemiological data, early discharge, coronary project, and the Society for Social Medicine working party report. The longest article appeared to be the Society for Social Medicine report, leading to the question if priorities of the journal had changed with the increase in article publication.

Volume 27 in 1973 featured the same issue publication dates, and a relatively increasing length of the issue with February’s 27.1 being 72 pages long, departing from the range of 50-60 common in other issues. 37 articles were published in 27.1 and the topics were: cigarette consumption, alcoholism, suicide behaviors, heart disease, diabetes and drug prescriptions, pregnancy, National Health Service, disease coding, screening programmes, breast cancer screening, ESR, developmental paediatric programme, blood urea and hypertensive pregnancies, cytology, cervical screening, Hodgkin’s disease, seasonal variations in mortality, limb defects, chromosome abnormalities, malignant disease in children, water quality, the 1972 fog cohort study, twins, hyperplasia of the prostate, emergency admissions to hospital, workload, psychiatric in-patients, elderly and health care, interface between medicine and social work, contraception amongst women, Newcastle accident survey, community hospital evaluation, and traditional doctors.

Volume 28 in 1974 maintained the same issue publication dates and issue 28.1 in February featured a length of 72 pages and 33 articles on the topics: adenotonsillectomy, birthweight, surgical sterilization, self poisoning, cigarette smoking, general practitioner files, rubella screening and immunization, ABO blood groups, space clustering, myocardial infarction, symptom patterns, cone biopsy of the uterine cervix, maternal nutrition, anencephalus and spina bifida, obstertric phenomena, Henoch-Schönlein Purpura, accidental child poisoning and health education, social work in mental health, inguinal hernia and varicose veins, herniorrhaphy, community health service, regional health authority funds, radio-iodine deaths, hodgkin’s disease, breast cancer, locomotor disability, neurological disease, haemophillia, and rheumatoid factor.

Volume 29 in 1975 featured another change in issue publication with the months changing to March, June, September, and December. The length of issue 29.1 in March was similar to that of past issues at 64 pages, but there was a return to covering only 9 articles on the topics: virology, seasonality of events, anecephalus, spina bifida, menarcheal age, cervical screening, migraine, home nurses, and the Society of Social Medicine annual report. The departure from the multiplicity of articles and return to fewer articles with longer lengths is a curious change and appears to have been a fluctuating pattern in the journal during the first half of the decade.

In volume 30 in 1976, the issue publication dates were maintained from volume 29, and the length of 70 pages for March’s issue 30.1 was normal. Issue 30.1, however, was in the mid-range of article numbers at 12 focusing on the topics: policies on the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys; the National Health Service’s computing policy; malignancy in relatives of celiac disease; seasonal distribution of Henoch-Schönlein Purpura; ancephalus, Spina Bifida, twins, and teratoma; twinning and anencephalus; neural tube defects and spontaneous abortion; trace elements in water and congenital malformation in South Wales; spina bifida cystica screening; asymptomatic bacteriuria; obese patient weight loss maintenance; cigarette smoking among secondary school children and medical students.

The 31st volume in 1977 featured the same issue publication dates as the past two volumes, and March’s issue 31.1 featured 13 articles and 69 pages on the topics: child health services, anti-smoking advice in pregnancy, cigarette smoking patterns, health norms in pregnancy, congenital limb malformations, questionnaire self-administration, ischaemic heart disease, daily mortality and environment in Greater London, mortality in people over 75 years old, drug prescription in Iceland, and the Society for Social Medicine meeting summary. The topics of the journal’s issues still are broad, but in the past several volumes, there appears to be more of an emphasis on featuring similar topics.

Volume 32 in 1978 featured the same publication dates and issue 32.1 in March featured 14 articles on: discipline changes, resource allocation, health care need, childhood mortality and disease association with living conditions, mortality related to socioeconomic status, seasonal variation in psychiatric patients’ admission and births, cigarette smoking amongst secondary schoolchildren, inguinal hernia, and rheumatic fever and heart disease.

Volume 33 in 1979 had the same issue publication dates and issue 33 in March featured an increased length at 106 pages, and 15 articles on the topics: cross-disciplinary collaboration, social medicine, cost and benefit analysis of health care, disability, clinical radiology resources, health economics, sex differential in ischaemic heart disease, neural tube defects, prenatal health behavior, elderly hospital admission, distance and demand of general practice, proxy measures for morbidity, and Miettinen’s multivariate confounder score.

Volume 34 in 1980 featured the same issue publication dates, and March’s issue 34.1 featured 68 pages and 14 articles on: twins, Cardiff cervical cytology, cervical cancer, breast screening, coronary heart disease, milk and child growth, cot deaths, acute intussusception, hypertension, mortality and socioeconomic status, blood pressure measurements, growth profile of preschool children, and elderly adult treatment.

Volume 35 in 1981 featured the now-consistent issue dates and 35.1 in March had 75 pages and 15 articles on: moth dermatitis, congenital malformations, childhood cancer, cigarette mortality, drug monitoring, malignant cell cytology, stroke rehabilitation, cerebrovascular disease, coding, mentally handicapped adults, disability screening, urinary incontinence, cohort selection and death patterns. The reduced number of articles and average article length of 4 pages appears to be the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’s stabilizing point.

Volume 36 in 1982 featured consistent issue dates and issue 36 featured 67 pages and 12 articles on: cervical screening, infant mortality, accidental poisoning, blood pressure, suicide, dependency of elderly, urinary incontinence, statistical models, sudden infant death syndrome, and dental caries.

Volume 37 in 1983 featured the same four issue dates, and March’s issue 37.1 featured 88 pages and 20 articles on: factor effects on blood lead concentration, meals and schoolchildren growth, transunsaturated fatty acids, salt use and stroke mortality, coronary heart disease, blood pressure, gastric cancer, hypertension screening, reduction limb defects, perinatal deaths, alcohol use and birth, motorcycle accidents, mortality and disability, rubella immunization, reproductive histories, analysis of case-referent studies, and A-bomb radiation effects.

Volume 38 in 1984 featured the same issue dates and an 88-page, 19-article 38.1 March issue on: gas detoxification, Wilms’ tumour, leukaemia and childhood cancer in twins, chest pain, multiple sclerosis, fetal loss rates, viral respiratory infection, blood pressure, breast cancer screening, coeliac disease, preventive behavior, tuberculous disease, nurse teamwork, hearing difficulty implications, pregnancy epidemiology, cancer mortality mapping, and the standardized mortality ratio.

Volume 39 in 1985 had the same issue dates and issue 39.1 in March had 96 pages and 20 articles on: mortality differentials, male mortality, respiratory conditions, tuberculosis, high liveborn weights, mortality ratios, multiple sclerosis, cancer mortality, moles, childhood cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, bladder tumours, malignant melanoma, thyrotoxicosis, carbon monoxide levels, peptic ulcers, stroke and disability, seasonal variations in care, and the Society for Social Medicine report. This article demonstrates another shift of the article toward increased articles and longer-length. Ultimately, from the 1970s-1980s, there was consistent fluctuation between length and article number.

Volume 40 in 1986 had four issues with 40.1 in March featuring 96 pages and 18 articles on: health demand, back pain management, maternal blood lead, testicular cancer, cancer and parental occupations, coronary heart disease, lactation nurse and breast feeding, childhood hospital admission, adults at home, breast cancer screening, psychiatric morbidity, torsion of testis, low tar smoking, goitre and hypothyroidism, cerebral palsy, antinuclear appeal, Society for Social Medicine report, and corrections.

In volume 41 in 1987, article 41.1 in March had 88 pages and 22 articles on: mortality in people with extra chromosomes, multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, infant illness and parental smoking, menopausal symptoms, blood pressure, acute appendicitis, bus travel and traffic casualties, epidemiology of AIDS, risk estimation, SIDS, appendicectomy, lung cancer mortality, haemorraghic conjunctivitis, postneonatal mortality, testicular cancer seasonal variation, occupations and cancer, cancer epidemiology and prevention, Society for Social Medicine report, and letters to the editor.

Volume 42 in 1988 featured four expected issue dates and 42.1 in March had 104 pages and 27 articles on: congenital malformations, malignant melanoma, blindness in children, chronic disease, lactation and cancer, cigarette smoking and lung cancer, uterine cervix cancer, smoking questionnaire, lipoprotein cholesterol, increasing compliance, urinary iodine excretion, psychosocial bias, diarrhea morbidity, mortality patterns, health services, multiple sclerosis, stress and health, health information, ethical dilemmas, AIDS, hypertension, health promotion and protection, letters to the editor, and the Society for Social Medicine report.

In Volume 43 in 1989, March’s 43.1 issue had 102 pages and 24 articles on: COPD, childhood asthma, vaccination, computer disease registers, randomization, coronary heart disease, cancer in schizophrenic patients, obstetric activity, herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, sexual behavior and HIV, schoolchildren growth and school meals, smoking in adolescents, limb reduction defects, appendicectomy, smallpox, statistical methods, community medicine, school health services, data interpretation, non-sexist research, letters to the editor, and the Society for Social Medicine report. The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health featured the following changes from 1970-1989: length increase, issue publication, article-number-fluctuation, content increase, and geographical-focus widening. This international journal focuses on issues that impact the public health community at large and have the most immediate impact on community populations around the world.

Trends from 1990 - 2000[edit]

In 1990, the editors made a conscious decision to make the journal more “readable,” perhaps to attract a wider range of readers. There is a short section in the beginning of the journal literally entitled, “Changes in the Journal” where it specifies this goal of the decade. There is one article in the March 1990 journal that highlights the need for a change in how national health is measured. There is an added importance in including “health behavior and prevalence of specific diseases, and such variables as blood pressure [and] blood cholesterol” as one of the indicators of national health. The National Health Service and Community Care Act was also established in 1990, an act that made assessing populations for health care support a responsibility of local authorities, so that those who needed assistance would receive it. Each journal in 1990 had about 26-27 articles of which about 16-20 were research articles, 5-10 were book reviews on public health topics, and 1 was a conglomerate of short articles (reviews < 2 paragraphs per topic). The year 1990 had a variety of topics: health education evaluation, injuries and drug willingness (which I thought was interesting because it focused on health behaviors), health procedures and measures, and other epidemiological studies. The journal’s layout was very simple (at least in the e-version) with just the underlined title and the different articles under different subsections (research, commentaries, or book reviews).

In 1991, the journal had a similar layout, but I noticed one new section called “Correction.” I thought the action of pointing out certain flaws in previous articles made the journal very reliable and gave it a higher potential to be interactive. There is also “Letter to the Editor” section as well. It was hard to find a trend so far in this journal because the topics varied from national health, diseases, health behavior (cigarette smoking), to racial sub-categories of diseases. It had settings in different European and African countries, which added to the international goal of the journal’s beginnings.

In February 1992, there was an interesting topic about the response rate of a postal questionnaire after a person was asked their ethnic origin. A study showed that there was no difference in response rate for those who were asked and those were not. Then the very next article was about a study of response rates of those who received a newspaper of the latter study. People were more likely to respond when they received the newspaper. It was different from the other topics, but it did well to further the idea that one should re-examine the structure of studies in regard to questionnaires, which is very important for public health studies. There were 6 journals published in 1992, compared to 4 from the previous years. There seemed to be a lot of optimism in the early 1990s for new changes in health care and the prospect of social medicine.

In 1993, the font of the title of the journal changed, and there was a new section: “Editorials.” One aspect of health strongly emphasized in this year was preventive medicine and the methods to implement it. In the February 1993 journal, there were about 3 articles highlighting the strategies and results of preventive medicine. Apparently there were a lot of books/articles written in 1993 on preventive medical strategies. One book, published by Geoffrey Rose in 1993, is thought of as the foundation for preventive medicine today. There seems to be a trend of not only assessing populations as subjects or patients but also assessing health care providers and medications: “States, Regulation, and the Medial Profession” and “Pay more, get more? The influence of pay on doctors' behavior.” There were also some articles on the health behaviors based on the built environment, like the use of public swimming pools.

The February 1994 journal noted that there would be a change in the indexing of each article. The topics in the journal were still similar; but there seemed to be an effort to relate the connection between social medicine and public health, emphasizing more studies on “social” man to further preventive medicine. Also the foundations of public health, epidemiology, and causation were common topics. There was also an addendum for certain terms, perhaps maybe unclear to readers, which helped in the process of making the journal more “readable.” There is also an “In this number” section that gives an overview or a background perspective for the journal, which was continued in later years.

The February 1995 journal had no book reviews but had about 25 research articles. The later journals did however. The topics discussed so far had not changed in variety, but there were some articles that enlightened one on interventions for health behaviors, such as smoking cessation and food hygiene. For some reason, the August and December1995 journals’ covers are brown (compared to yellow) and have supplements. There was also a “Foreword” in some of the journals, but not consistent. There appeared to be more studies on the effect of one’s living environment and social equality on health.

The April 1996 journal had several articles on air pollution. Coincidentally, a University of Rochester sophomore died in April 1996 from a government-sponsored experiment on air pollution. The student had overdosed on lidocaine during a bronchoscopy procedure. The latter would explain the sudden interest in air pollution and health. In 1997, one topic that struck me was the February issue: “Talking About Anorexia. How to cope with life without starving.” I thought it was a topic very modern, not to say it did not exist before that time. The December 2007 journal had a “cool blue” color, and had some reflective articles over issues in the 5 previous years. There were 12 issues in 1998, compared to the 6 in previous years. There were also fewer articles, from about 26 to 12. The variety of topics was about the same as the previous articles. It was also the same in 1999, but the topics seem to be mundane and social. For example, there were articles about poor health among single mothers and finding one’s identity in a complex world. In 2000, there were more sections added to the journal: “Theory and Methods” and “Public health policy and practice.” The former section “Theory and Methods” on socio-economic inequalities, there was a group of arguments set up in which the writer would defend or criticize with supported evidence. The latter section had an objective in which a subject is evaluated (whether a certain procedure is equally provided regardless of socio-economic status) and then a conclusion from the evaluation.

Overall, this decade had small changes in content, but it had a significant impact on the definition and importance of public health, which is heavily influenced by social and environmental factors.

Abstracting and indexing[edit]

The journal is abstracted and indexed by:

The journal has a 2013 impact factor of 3.192.[3]


External links[edit]