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The epidemiological transition in Belgium, 1880-1947. Regional differences of cause-of-death patterns.

Isabelle Devos, Ghent University

Historians and demographers have increasingly begun to question the value of national level mortality data for explanatory purposes. The purposes of this paper are twofold. First, it aims at studying the contribution of specific causes of diseases to the mortality decline in Belgium since 1880. We will perform an analysis of Belgian data on mortality by region (provinces and arrondissements) and cause of death for the census years 1880, 1900, 1910, 1930 and 1947. Secondly, this paper will investigate what links may be found between these geographical variations in cause-specific mortality by using a historical geographical information system constructed for the analysis of Belgian historical statistics (HISGIS). We will present results from our work on the historical mortality atlas of Belgium. This opens up new perspectives for research that focuses on the meso-level and that is too often relegated to a 'contextual variable'. Exploring the meaning of these regional/local levels implies research into the role of communities and their impact on behavioural changes.

Presented in Session 32: The health transition in the 19th/20th century: historical approaches