The Epidemiologic Transition in French Guiana: Secular Trends and Setbacks, and Comparisons with Continental France and South American Countries

Trop Med Infect Dis. 2023 Apr 8;8(4):219. doi: 10.3390/tropicalmed8040219.


There are great variations between population subgroups, notably in poorer countries, leading to substantial inconsistencies with those predicted by the classical epidemiologic transition theory. In this context, using public data, we aimed to determine how the singular case of French Guiana fit and transitioned in the epidemiologic transition framework. The data show a gradual decline in infant mortality to values above 8 per 1000 live births. Premature mortality rates were greater but declined more rapidly in French Guiana than in mainland France until 2017 when they reascended in a context of political turmoil followed by the COVID-19 pandemic and strong reluctance to get vaccinated. Although infections were a more frequent cause of death in French Guiana, there is a marked decline and circulatory and metabolic causes are major causes of premature death. Fertility rates remain high (>3 live births per woman), and the age structure of the population is still pyramid-shaped. The singularities of French Guiana (rich country, universal health system, widespread poverty) explain why its transition does not fit neatly within the usual stages of transition. Beyond gradual improvements in secular trends, the data also suggest that political turmoil and fake news may have detrimentally affected mortality in French Guiana and reversed improving trends.

Keywords: epidemiologic transition; infectious diseases; life expectancy; non communicable diseases; premature mortality; tropical.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.