The profession of public health informatics: still emerging? Academic Article uri icon


  • 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 (I(1980)) and 1996-2000 (I(1996)), respectively, and a new, third interval of 2001-2006 (I(2001)). RESULTS: The distribution of records was 676 (I(1980)), 839 (I(1996)) and 978 (I(2001)). Annual publication rates were 42 (I(1980)), 168 (I(1996)), and 163 (I(2001)). 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 (I(1980)), 2.9+/-1.9 (I(1996)), and 3.1+/-2.7 (I(2001)) were different, F(3, 64)=7.12, p<.05. Only I(1980) was different (p<.05) from I(1996) or I(2001). 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.

published proceedings

  • Int J Med Inform

author list (cited authors)

  • Araujo, J., Pepper, C., Richards, J., Choi, M., Xing, J., & Li, W

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

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

publication date

  • March 2009