J Epidemiol Community Health 64:105-108 doi:10.1136/jech.2009.094219
  • Essay

Connecting the dots: the power of words and the diversity of epidemiological information

  1. John Last
  1. Correspondence to Dr John M Last, Emeritus professor of epidemiology and community medicine, University of Ottawa, 300 Queen Elizabeth Drive, Apartment 11A, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3M6, Canada; jmlast{at}
  • Accepted 4 November 2009


Almost 30 years ago, my career in public health sciences detoured along an uncommon pathway: I became a wordsmith, finding unambiguous words and phrases to define the concepts, methods and procedures of epidemiology and related sciences. Playing with words made me well known among epidemiologists, a curious outcome because my contributions are otherwise minor. This shows how important words are.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.