004 - Epidemiological Transition

Geographic Knowledge and Understanding

The epidemiological transition, the disease continuum (diseases of poverty to diseases of affluence), and the implications of a global ageing population for disease of burden.


Places can create regional differences in the epidemiological transition.


  • To have knowledge of what the epidemiological transition.

  • To understand the disease continuum and how it occurs.

  • To have knowledge and understanding of how an ageing population can be perceived as a disease of burden.

Key Terminology

            • Epidemiological

            • Disease continuum

            • Diseases of affluence

            • Diseases of poverty

            • Disease of burden

            • Disability Adjusted Life Years - DALY

            • Potential Years of Life Lost - PYLL

Define the key words above by using the 'Using Link's below:

Useful Links

Activity One - Discuss

Before we begin to look at the different types of diseases we are going to look at what people generally die from across the world. Use the link in the 'Useful Resources' box to describe the key causes of death.

      1. Find two news articles for Niger to illustrate two large causes of mortality. Write the title of the newspaper and summarise the information in one paragraph.

      2. How does this compare to a High Income Country?

      3. Using the examples from questions 1 and 2 answer the following questions:

                • Is there a link between certain places and the types of diseases that people may die from? Remember this is not completely to do with finances, the geographical location of a place can also determine the disease.

                • Explain your answer.

Activity Two - Watch and Describe

We are now going to look at the epidemiological transition to see the stages that places pass through when dealing with different types of disease. As you have seen with the nutrition transition we can graph the changes and link them to population change models such as the Demographic Transition Model.

      1. Watch the YouTube clip and create a flowchart to illustrate the three key stages of the epidemiological transition.

      2. Next to your flowchart, suggest where the different stages of the DTM 'fit' with the transition of disease.

Epidemiological Transition

Activity Three - Describe - Disease Continuum

We are now going to focus on what constitutes a disease of poverty and a disease of affluence. It is clear from the previous two activities that access to sanitation, clean safe drinking water, reliable food and medical care has a huge impact on the types of diseases that people suffer from, but so does our overall lifestyle. In more developed nations we have become more static, more reliant on quickly produced food and generally have good access to medical care. This has had a huge impact on the types of diseases that we can potentially suffer from.

      1. Collect a piece of A4 paper and a set of coloured pens.

      2. Mind map the five distinctive causes of 'diseases of poverty'.

            • Make sure you give examples of the types of diseases people can contract and explain how they can impact health.

            • Try and stick to the same pen shades for the 'diseases of poverty'.

      3. Mind map the three distinctive causes of 'diseases of affluence'.

            • Make sure you give examples of the types of diseases people can have from and explain how they can impact health.

            • Try and stick to the same pen shades for the 'diseases of affluence'.

      4. Add to your mind map the five distinct categories for the global distribution of health risks.

Useful Resource

'Our Planet's Food and Health' textbook by Codrington Pages 28 - 30

Activity Four - Discuss - Disease of Burden

We have discussed so far what the diseases of poverty and affluence are but we haven't talked about the uncomfortable truth - the longer we live the greater the burden we are on society. We clearly have an ageing population in Europe and this is increasingly creating stress on the current provisions that are in place. As people begin to work they are highly encouraged to pay into a comprehensive pension plan so that they can pay for care in their old age. Countries in Europe are currently struggling to provide care for the elderly and our increasingly technological world is making some people more isolated.

      1. Using image one below, describe how the diseases of burden is changing.

      2. Using the articles outline why there is a growing issue of diseases of burden.

      3. What can countries can do to reduce the disease of burden in the ageing population.

Useful Resources


Pacific Health Summit - Globalisation and NCD

The WHO - Ageing and Health

'Our Planet's Food and Health' text book by Codrington Pages 31-32

Exam Style Question

Explain TWO impacts of diseases of burden. [2+2 marks]

This lesson was development in collaboration with Richard Allaway from geographyalltheway. For more resources please visit www.geographyalltheway.com