The profession of public health informatics: Still emerging?

John Araujo, Catherine Pepper, Janise Richards, Mona Choi, Jian Xing, Wei Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Although public health informatics (PHI) was defined in 1995, both then and still now it is an "emerging" profession. An emergent profession lacks a base of "technical specialized knowledge." Therefore, we analyzed MEDLINE bibliographic citation records of the PHI literature to determine if a base of technical, specialized PHI literature exists, which could lead to the conclusion that PHI has emerged from its embryonic state. Method: A MEDLINE search for PHI literature published from 1980-2006 returned 16,942 records. Record screening by two subject matter experts netted 2493 PHI records that were analyzed by the intervals of previous PHI CBMs 96-4 and 2001-2 for 1980-1995 (I1980) and 1996-2000 (I1996), respectively, and a new, third interval of 2001-2006 (I2001). Results: The distribution of records was 676 (I1980), 839 (I1996) and 978 (I2001). Annual publication rates were 42 (I1980), 168 (I1996), and 163 (I2001). Cumulative publications were accelerating. A subset of 19 (2.5%) journals accounted for 730 (29.3%) of the records. The journal subset average (±SD) annual publication rates of 0.7 ± 0.6 (I1980), 2.9 ± 1.9 (I1996), and 3.1 ± 2.7 (I2001) were different, F(3, 64) = 7.12, p < .05. Only I1980 was different (p < .05) from I1996 or I2001. Average (±SE) annual rate of increase for all journals (8.4 ± 0.8 publications per year) was different from the subset of 19 (2.7 ± 0.3), t(36) = 5.74, p < .05. MeSH first time-to-indexing narrowed from 7.3 (±4.3) years to the year (0.5 ± 0.8) the term was introduced, t(30) = 7.03, p < .05. Conclusion: A core set of journals, the proliferation of PHI articles in varied and numerous journals, and rapid uptake of MeSH suggest PHI is acquiring professional authority and now should not be tagged as an "emerging" profession.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-385
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Medical Informatics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Jun

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by the appointments of John Araujo, Catherine Pepper, Mona Choi, Jian Xing, and Wei Li to the Public Health Informatics Fellowship Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education through an interagency agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and CDC. Portions of this study were presented at the American Public Health Association Meeting & Exposition, Washington, DC, November 3–7, 2007.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


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