Open Access

Influential journals in health research: a bibliometric study

Globalization and Health201612:46

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12992-016-0186-4

Received: 17 December 2015

Accepted: 8 August 2016

Published: 22 August 2016

Abstract

Background

There is a wide range of intellectual work written about health research, which has been shaped by the evolution of diseases. This study aims to identify the leading journals over the last 25 years (1990–2014) according to a wide range of bibliometric indicators.

Methods

The study develops a bibliometric overview of all the journals that are currently indexed in Web of Science (WoS) database in any of the four categories connected to health research. The work classifies health research in nine subfields: Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health, Health Management and Economics, Health Promotion and Health Behavior, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Services, Medicine, Health Informatics, Engineering and Technology, and Primary Care.

Results

The results indicate a wide dispersion between categories being the American Journal of Epidemiology, Environmental Health Perspectives, American Journal of Public Health, and Social Science & Medicine, the journals that have received the highest number of citations over the last 25 years. According to other indicators such as the h-index and the citations per paper, some other journals such as the Annual Review of Public Health and Medical Care, obtain better results which show the wide diversity and profiles of outlets available in the scientific community. The results are grouped and studied according to the nine subfields in order to identify the leading journals in each specific sub discipline of health.

Conclusions

The work identifies the leading journals in health research through a bibliometric approach. The analysis shows a deep overview of the results of health journals. It is worth noting that many journals have entered the WoS database during the last years, in many cases to fill some specific niche that has emerged in the literature, although the most popular ones have been in the database for a long time.

Keywords

HealthBibliometricsJournalsWeb of Science

Background

The scope of public health history is dynamic and has been shaped by the evolution of diseases. In the last decades, health research has moved from the study of sanitary reforms and the control of infectious diseases, to the study of the impact of epidemic and contagious diseases, and to the inclusion of social action initiatives taken in response of epidemic disasters. Thus, the scope of health research has been expanded and broadened from a range of intellectual disciplines including the study of health economics [1], and social and political relations of health [2]. These intellectual contributions have been well documented in a range of professional journals.

The oldest continuously published medical journal was introduced in 1812 by the Massachusetts Medical Society and was called The New England Journal of Medicine and Surgery and the Collateral Branches of Science, which in 1828 became The Boston Medical and Surgical Journal and later The New England Journal of Medicine. From that period of time many other medical associations and journals started to emerge including the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1883, Milbank Quarterly in 1923, Public Health Economics and Medical Care Abstracts (today’s Medical Care Research and Review) in 1944, Inquiry and Medical Care in 1963, Health Service Research in 1966, and Social Science and Medicine in 1967. Healthcare Financial Management and the International Journal of Health Services appeared in the 70’s, and also the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, Health Care Management Review, Hospital and Health Services Administration, the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management and, and Health Care Financing Review. In the 80’s there was an explosion of new journals such as the Journal of Public Health Policy, Health Affairs, Advances in Health Economics and Health Services Research, Health Care Strategic Management, Frontier of Health Services Management, International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care, International Journal of Health Planning and Management, Health Care Financing Review, and the International Journal for Quality in Health Care. The first issue of the Journal of Health Services Research and Policy was published in 1996, and in the 2000s the Health Services and Outcomes Research Methodology appeared [3].

For this reason, there is a wide range of intellectual work written about health research and it is time to evaluate its development and main characteristics. Bibliometric analysis can help determine trends and patterns of publications within a research discipline, identifying the focus of research and the national and international strengths and biases [4, 5]. Over the course of the past few decades, several bibliometric analyses have been published regarding diverse topics in the literature of health research, including medicine and international health, where studies have tried to evaluate the contribution of different world regions in research production in infection diseases in terms of both quantity and quality [6], in respiratory research productivity where countries from Western Europe, Canada and Oceania had the best performance after adjustment for population and gross national income per capita [7], in cardiovascular research production where the results showed a promising trend of research productivity for developing world regions with the exception of Africa [8], and also look at the bibliometric profile of tropical medicine and international health [9]. In health informatics studies have included an up-to-date view of the telemedicine and telehealth literature analyzing the changes in content themes [10], assessing the impact of grants in the contribution to scientific knowledge of health information technologies on patient safety and quality of care outcomes [11], quantifying the number of publications on electronic health records and their changes over time [12], and studying the contribution of individual countries to leading journals in medical informatics [13]. Among occupational health, articles have helped to identify the most pertinent journals in the practice of occupational health and to develop search strategies that facilitate finding occupational health intervention studies [1416]. There are also bibliometric analysis published in health management that investigate the attention and progress of strategic management in the literature [17], in health economics, studies have reported the growth of health economics literature and the change in topics and geographical focus of health economics [1820]. Bibliometric studies in health service research have looked for trends, gaps and characteristics when comparing among different regions [21, 22], in the same line other studies have assessed the scientific production in health policy [23, 24], in primary health [25, 26], in epidemiology [27, 28], in environmental health [2931], in public health and preventive medicine [32, 33], in preventive medicine, occupational and environmental medicine, epidemiology, and public health [34], and also public in health research in specific countries or regions [3542]. This literature has become relevant today perhaps due to the diverse disciplines that are engaged in health research and its importance in order to monitor and disseminate the scientific achievements from the research work.

In this current study we aim to expand the scope of analysis of health research even more, identifying and quantifying the scholarly publications in the field and subfield approaches of public health, environmental and occupational health, health management and economics, health promotion and health behavior, epidemiology, health policy and services, medicine, health informatics, engineering and technology and primary care. Our main goal is to produce an overview of the leading journals in health research literature in the world for a time frame of 25 years from 1990 to 2014. There are many aspects that can indicate the value of a journal; in this study we use the number of citations and their impact factor to reflect the quality of the review process and its popularity in the scientific community. Findings from this research may assist researchers to identify top performance journals in a subject area, learn more about the subfields of health research, and identify emerging areas of research to locate areas of potential study.

Methods

There are different approaches for classifying the bibliographic material. Bibliometrics is one of the most common approaches [43, 44]. In order to represent the results, the analysis uses a wide range of indicators that measure the quality of the publications. Currently, there is no general agreement on the optimal method for measuring research because depending on the perspective considered an indicator may be better than another one. Therefore, the current literature deals with many indicators that have appeared during the last years [4547]. In this study, the aim is to provide a general picture in order to get a complete overview that can adapt to the interests and perspectives of each specific reader. Thus, several indicators are considered including the total number of publications and citations, the citations per paper, the h-index [48] and the number of papers that a journal has among the most cited ones in a specific field. Note that the most cited papers are found in Web of Science (WoS) by ordering the results of a search from the most cited papers to the less cited [49].

The study uses the WoS database in order to search for the information. WoS is usually regarded as the most influential database for scientific research because it includes those journals that are generally recognized with the highest quality. It was originally created by Eugene Garfield with the name of Institute for Scientific Information (ISI). Later, Thomson & Reuters bought the ISI, renaming it ISI Web of Knowledge and later WoS. Note that other databases are available and could also be used in the analysis including Scopus and Google Scholar. Scientific research is divided in 251 categories in WoS. Four of them involve health research: Public, Environmental & Occupational Health, Health Policy & Services, Health Care Sciences & Services, and Primary Health Care. Note that the first one appears both in the Science Citation Index and in the Social Science Citation Index. These four categories encompass 363 journals. Since these four categories are very broad, the study divides health research in nine categories in order to get a deeper picture of the leading journals in each subfield. However, it is worth noting that sometimes it was not clear where to classify a journal because its scope may include two or three subfields. In any case, the analysis considers a Global Ranking (GR) where all the journals are ranked together. This allows comparison between subfields when needed. The nine categories are:
  • Public Health

  • Environmental and Occupational Health

  • Health Management and Economics

  • Health Promotion and Health Behavior

  • Epidemiology

  • Health Policy and Services

  • Medicine

  • Health Informatics, Engineering and Technology

  • Primary Care

Although the work considers many indicators, the ranking is carried out according to the total number of citations. The main reason for this is that the citations measure the influence that a journal has in absolute terms. Other alternatives could be considered including the citations per paper and the h-index. The main limitation of this indicator is that it does not take into account the number of papers that have generated the number of cites. However, the rest of indicators included in the tables allow the reader to get a comprehensive overview of each journal although the ranking is focused on the number of citations.

The analysis focuses on the last 25 years (1990–2014). The main reason is because this time period is representative of the latest developments of the field. In order to take into account the influence from a classical perspective, the study includes an indicator that shows the number of articles that a journal has among the 200 most cited articles published before 200. This allows the reader to see those journals that were very influential before and see if they are still leading the field or not. Note that the search process carried out in WoS has been developed between March and August 2015. The types of documents considered are: articles, reviews, notes and letters.

Results

This section presents the main bibliometric results found in WoS for 363 health research journals from 1990 to 2014. The results are ordered by category and each table contains the 20 or 10 most cited journals of each category (see the Additional file 1 for the full list of journals).

Public health

Public health refers to the activities to prevent diseases, promote health, and prolong life for the whole population [50]. Therefore, the main objective of public health is assuring conditions for the people in order to be healthy. It is at the core of health research and consequently there are many journals devoted to increase knowledge and raise awareness on this topic. Table 1 shows the most influential journals among this category.
Table 1

Most influential journals in Public Health Research

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

American Journal of Public Health

302196

9203

198

32,84

1991

81

4,229

4,997

15

9

1

3

1911

2

Social Science & Medicine

281663

9656

163

29,17

1990

31

2,558

3,568

17

14

0

4

1967

3

Bulletin of The World Health Organization

80812

2597

110

31,12

1990

68

5,112

6,372

8

7

14

22

1948

4

BMC Public Health

60880

7434

64

8,19

2001

1

2,321

2,781

0

0

0

31

2001

5

Public Health Nutrition

46882

2988

84

15,69

1999

2

2,483

2,798

1

1

0

41

1998

6

Drug Safety

46562

2005

87

23,22

1990

5

2,620

3,424

0

0

0

42

1986

7

Annual Review of Public Health

39592

595

104

66,54

1991

12

6,627

7,984

4

4

1

51

1980

8

Public Health Reports

34617

2064

67

13,29

1990

105

1,644

1,791

1

1

2

61

2001

9

Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health

22531

2219

54

10,15

1996

20

1,897

1,835

0

0

0

82

1977

10

Canadian Journal of Public Health-Revue Canadienne de Sante Publique

20835

2515

44

8,28

1990

81

1,094

1,325

1

1

0

88

1997

11

European Journal of Public Health

20399

1851

51

11,02

1997

7

2,459

2,743

0

0

0

91

1991

12

Public Health

20393

2488

48

8,2

1990

104

1,475

1,514

0

0

0

92

1888

13

Revista de Saude Publica

18366

2810

41

6,54

1990

24

1,219

1,587

0

0

0

97

1967

14

Scandinavian Journal of Public Health

17440

1568

50

11,12

1999

27

3,125

2,570

0

0

0

103

1973

15

Journal of American College Health

15664

1011

57

15,49

1994

43

1,397

2,223

2

1

0

109

1978

16

Journal of Safety Research

13917

1070

47

13,01

1990

21

1,303

1,940

0

0

0

116

1982

17

Public Health Nursing

11167

1373

37

8,13

1990

7

0,886

1,131

0

0

0

137

1984

18

Maternal and Child Health Journal

9992

1434

36

6,97

2004

8

2,015

2,318

0

0

0

143

1997

19

Salud Publica de Mexico

8805

2008

30

4,38

1993

35

1,034

1,221

0

0

0

154

1997

20

Ethnicity & Disease

7952

1285

32

6,19

2004

14

0,921

1,233

0

0

0

160

2003

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

The journal that has received more citations and the higher h-index in this field is the American Journal of Public Health with 302,196 citations and an h-index of 198; followed by Social Science & Medicine with 281,663 citations and an h-index of 163. These two journals dominate the number of citations in the field with more than 50 % of all the cites. Despite these elevated numbers, the highest average citation rate per paper, impact factor, and 5-year impact factor is for the Annual Review of Public Health.

Analyzing the T50 and T200 ranking results, Social Science & Medicine is in the top positions with 17 papers or 34 % of the papers in the T50 ranking of the category, followed by the American Journal of Public Health with 30 % of the papers in the T50. The same journals have 9 and 14 papers respectively in the T200 ranking. Note that all the journals of the category have an h-index bigger than 20, reflecting its influence and productivity.

Environmental and occupational health

Environmental health studies the impact of our surroundings in health, while occupational health studies all aspects of health and safety in the workplace. This category includes journals regarding the understanding of the impact and control of environmental and occupational hazards on human health and society. Table 2 presents the results for this category.
Table 2

Most influential journals in Environmental and Occupational Health Research

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

Environmental Health Perspectives

311509

8066

192

38,62

1990

89

7,029

7,607

40

22

3

2

1972

2

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

71955

3211

98

22,41

1994

51

3,234

3,466

0

0

1

26

1944

3

American Journal of Industrial Medicine

62605

3745

76

16,72

1990

18

1,590

1,899

1

1

1

29

1980

4

Environmental Research

62104

2695

91

23,04

1990

53

3,951

4,033

1

0

0

30

1967

5

Accident Analysis and Prevention

60584

3760

83

16,11

1990

22

2,571

3,096

0

0

0

32

1969

6

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine

57259

4235

80

13,52

1990

32

1,797

2,09

0

0

1

34

1959

7

Radiation Protection Dosimetry

53396

9063

55

5,89

1990

30

0,861

0,981

0

0

0

36

1981

8

Scandinavian Journal of Work Environment & Health

44939

1853

83

24,25

1990

16

3,095

3,869

3

1

0

45

1975

9

International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health

37358

2381

66

15,69

1990

62

2,198

2,199

1

1

0

56

1930

10

Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine

34588

4265

51

8,11

1990

61

0,782

0,998

0

0

0

62

1930

11

Annals of Occupational Hygiene

22748

1844

52

12,34

1990

34

2,068

2,148

0

0

0

79

1958

12

Indoor Air

20871

948

62

22,02

1994

4

4,904

-

0

0

0

87

1991

13

Health & Place

19584

1384

58

14,15

1995

1

2,435

3,003

0

0

0

95

1995

14

Occupational Medicine-Oxford

19400

2080

53

9,33

1992

42

1,472

1,682

1

0

0

96

1948

15

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health-Part A-Current Issues

17092

1670

44

10,23

1998

53

1,834

1,868

0

0

0

104

1975

16

International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health

15445

1080

51

14,3

2000

203

3,276

3,331

0

0

0

110

2000

17

Toxicology and Industrial Health

15004

1429

49

10,5

1990

6

1,710

1,591

3

0

0

115

1985

18

Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part B-Pesticides Food Contaminants and Agricultural Wastes

13210

1901

34

6,95

1990

25

1,234

1,129

0

0

0

122

1976

19

Environmental Geochemistry and Health

12095

1093

42

11,07

1990

12

2,573

2,534

0

0

0

128

1979

20

Industrial Health

10652

1444

35

7,38

1990

28

1,045

1,132

0

0

0

140

1963

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

The journal Environmental Health Perspectives has the highest results in all the measures, with 311,509 citations that are far from any other journal in the category, an h-index of 192, and an impact factor of 7.029. It has also 80 % of the papers in the T50 ranking, and 22 papers in the T200 ranking of the most cited papers in all fields of health.

Health management and economics

This category includes journals related to the economics and management of health and healthcare (see Table 3).
Table 3

Most influential journals in Health Management and Economics Research

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

Medical Care

162015

3890

145

41,65

1990

28

2,941

3,714

31

16

10

9

1963

2

Risk Analysis

50164

2716

85

18,47

1990

10

1,974

2,546

5

2

1

38

1981

3

Journal of Health Economics

39818

1400

85

28,44

1990

9

2,254

3,159

5

3

1

49

1982

4

Pharmacoeconomics

37078

2163

69

17,04

1993

4

3,338

3,509

2

0

0

57

1992

5

Medical Decision Making

34695

1511

80

22,96

1990

10

2,698

3,083

5

1

1

59

1981

6

Health Economics

32797

1643

72

19,96

1994

3

2,137

2,570

2

0

0

65

1992

7

BMC Health Services Research

25343

3474

49

7,3

2001

1

1,659

2,188

0

0

0

72

2001

8

American Journal of Managed Care

24099

2483

57

9,71

1997

3

2,166

2,688

0

0

0

76

1995

9

Inquiry-The Journal of Health Care Organization Provision and Financing

9704

711

43

13,65

1990

97

0,564

0,793

0

0

0

146

1964

10

Health Care Management Review

6392

702

32

9,11

1994

19

1,642

2,071

0

0

0

179

1976

11

American Journal of Medical Quality

5264

698

30

7,5

1999

14

1,776

1,821

0

0

0

189

1986

12

Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy

4630

616

31

7,52

2006

12

2,682

2,858

0

0

0

198

1995

13

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice

3661

865

21

4,23

2005

11

0,84

1,198

0

0

0

211

1995

14

International Journal of Health Planning and Management

3470

512

26

6,78

1994

9

0,971

1,029

0

0

0

213

1985

15

Economics & Human Biology

3326

348

29

9,56

2006

4

2,461

2,878

0

0

0

217

2003

16

Journal of Healthcare Management

2919

514

24

5,68

1998

43

0,96

0,977

0

0

0

224

2007

17

European Journal of Health Economics

2403

495

19

4,85

2007

8

1,913

1,865

0

0

0

230

2000

18

Australian Health Review

2098

669

17

3,14

2007

31

1,000

1,127

0

0

0

236

1978

19

Human Resources for Health

2048

371

20

5,52

2008

6

1,922

2,392

0

0

0

237

2003

20

International Journal for Equity in Health

1761

458

16

3,84

2008

7

1,589

1,925

0

0

0

247

2002

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

Medical Care is the journal positioned number one in this category according to the number of citations, h-index, average citations per paper, and 5-year impact factor. It has 62 % of the papers among the 50 most cited in the category, and 16 out of the 200 most cited in all fields of health. However, the highest impact factor in the category is for Pharmaeconomics, positioned fourth according to the total number of citations.

Health promotion and health behavior

Health promotion and health behavior refers to the role of behavioral and social influences to address current and emerging public health problems. Table 4 shows the most influential journals in this category.
Table 4

Most influential journals in Health Promotion and Health Behavior

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

American Journal of Preventive Medicine

115942

3947

133

29,37

1990

6

4,281

5,092

13

5

5

12

1985

2

Preventive Medicine

111066

4186

122

26,53

1990

19

2,932

3,917

4

3

3

14

1972

3

Journal of Adolescent Health

78449

3676

96

21,34

1990

11

2,748

3,753

2

0

0

23

1980

4

Patient Education and Counseling

59813

3611

83

16,56

1990

15

2,598

3,158

2

0

0

33

1978

5

Medical Education

50964

3253

79

15,67

1990

24

3,617

3,963

0

0

0

37

1966

6

Journal of Health and Social Behavior

45820

728

107

62,94

1990

31

2,951

4,457

8

4

4

44

1960

7

Supportive Care in Cancer

39781

3384

62

11,76

1993

1

2,495

2,845

0

0

0

50

1993

8

AIDS Care-Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV

39017

2795

66

13,96

1992

4

2,194

2,454

1

1

1

53

1989

9

American Journal of Community Psychology

33534

1259

84

26,64

1990

18

1,968

2,888

1

1

0

63

1973

10

Tobacco Control

32078

1641

74

19,55

1998

7

5,150

4,532

1

0

0

66

1992

11

Health Education Research

31136

1594

73

19,53

1991

6

1,944

2,508

0

0

0

67

1986

12

Qualitative Health Research

28115

1864

58

15,08

1995

5

1,441

-

1

1

0

70

1991

13

Psychology & Health

24761

1407

57

17,6

1992

7

2,255

2,107

5

1

1

74

1987

14

Medical Teacher

24402

3370

52

7,24

1990

12

2,045

2,170

1

1

1

75

1979

15

Sociology of Health & Illness

23121

1134

65

20,39

1990

12

2,014

2,62

0

0

0

77

1979

16

AIDS and Behavior

22636

1863

55

12,15

2003

7

3,312

3,977

0

0

0

81

1997

17

American Journal of Health Promotion

21372

1072

63

19,94

1995

9

1,762

2,389

4

2

2

83

1986

18

AIDS Education and Prevention

20901

1123

57

18,61

1992

4

1,505

2,298

0

0

0

86

1989

19

Journal of School Health

20436

1887

56

10,83

1990

60

1,659

2,132

0

0

0

90

1930

20

AIDS Patient Care and STDs

20210

1622

49

12,46

1996

10

3,576

3,255

0

0

0

93

1987

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

As we can see in Table 4, there are two journals leading the citation ranking: the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and Preventive Medicine with 115,942 and 111,066 citations respectively. Also these two journals have an h-index over 100. The Tobacco Control Journal has the highest impact factor of 5150; however, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has the highest 5-year impact factor. Additionally, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has 13 studies in the T50 ranking and five in the T200.

Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a basic science of public health. It studies the distributions and determinants of health problems in different groups of people. Epidemiological information is used to plan and evaluate strategies to control or prevent diseases. Table 5 presents the main journals in this category.
Table 5

Most influential journals in Epidemiology

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

American Journal of Epidemiology

357243

8162

211

43,77

1990

131

4,975

6,067

11

8

49

1

1921

2

Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention

207614

6073

147

34,19

1991

1

4,324

4,647

2

1

0

5

1991

3

Journal of Clinical Epidemiology

168450

4502

167

37,42

1990

43

5,478

5,898

17

16

2

7

1955

4

Statistics in Medicine

148692

6505

140

22,86

1990

9

2,037

2,828

0

0

6

10

1982

5

International Journal of Epidemiology

140691

4335

134

32,45

1990

19

9,197

8,000

3

0

3

11

1972

6

Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health

99343

3939

117

25,22

1990

44

3,294

3,667

2

2

3

15

1947

7

Epidemiology

93837

3124

126

30,04

1991

2

6,178

6,894

1

1

0

16

1990

8

Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology

86969

4588

100

18,96

1990

11

3,938

4,423

5

3

0

18

1980

9

Cancer Causes & Control

83834

3003

112

27,92

1990

1

2,961

3,434

1

1

0

21

1990

10

Epidemiology and Infection

73121

4117

85

17,76

1990

104

2,491

2,671

0

0

0

25

1901

11

European Journal of Epidemiology

46372

2896

71

16,01

1990

6

5,147

4,245

1

1

0

43

1985

12

Annals of Epidemiology

43089

2002

83

21,52

1996

6

2,145

2,895

0

0

0

48

1990

13

Genetic Epidemiology

38300

2040

77

18,77

1990

7

2,951

3,489

1

1

1

54

1984

14

Epidemiologic Reviews

34630

456

93

75,94

1990

12

7,333

12,344

4

3

5

60

1979

15

Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology

33089

1726

66

19,17

1990

18

1,944

2,491

0

0

0

64

1973

16

Neuroepidemiology

24773

1314

62

18,85

1990

9

2,476

2,863

0

0

0

73

1982

17

Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology

21249

1228

59

17,3

1994

8

2,811

2,796

0

0

0

84

1987

18

Journal of Urban Health-Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine

18231

1274

54

14,31

1998

75

1,943

2,517

0

0

0

99

1925

19

Statistical Methods in Medical Research

11801

490

44

24,08

1999

8

2,957

3,155

2

2

0

131

1992

20

BMC Medical Research Methodology

8936

979

39

9,13

2007

7

2,168

3,024

0

0

0

153

2001

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

The American Journal of Epidemiology is in the first place of this category, and also among all the categories according to the global ranking (GR). It has also the highest h-index of all categories, reflecting his influence and impact. It is followed by the Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention and the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology that occupy positions 5 and 7 in the GR. The highest impact factor and 5-year impact factor is for the Epidemiology journal with values of 6178 and 6894 respectively. Regarding the T50 ranking, the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology has 46 % of the most cited papers in this category and the American Journal of Epidemiology has 22 %. In the T200 ranking, this category has 39 out of the 200 most cited journals in all the fields, eight are from the American Journal of Epidemiology and 16 of the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology.

Health policy and services

This category includes journals from multidisciplinary fields of scientific investigation that study among others the rising demand for health services, how to improve their quality and efficiency, and rigorous policy analysis that ultimately impact our health and well-being (see Table 6).
Table 6

Most influential journals in Health Policy and Services

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

Health Affairs

85858

5495

106

15,62

1990

9

4,321

4,402

11

1

1

19

1981

2

Quality of Life Research

65856

2697

102

24,42

1993

2

2,864

3,270

15

3

3

28

1992

3

Health Services Research

44904

1997

82

22,49

1990

24

2,491

2,772

4

0

0

46

1967

4

Health Policy

29530

1646

53

11,16

1990

14

1,725

1,923

1

1

1

68

1980

5

Milbank Quarterly

22965

605

69

37,96

1990

68

5,391

6,513

8

3

3

78

1923

6

Health Policy and Planning

20646

1306

56

15,81

1991

6

3,442

3,703

1

0

0

89

1986

7

International Journal for Quality in Health Care

18340

1299

54

14,12

1995

7

1,584

2,296

1

0

0

98

1989

8

Value in Health

18129

1403

53

12,92

2002

5

2,891

3,174

3

0

0

100

1998

9

Community Mental Health Journal

15045

1391

49

10,82

1990

26

1,146

1,422

0

0

0

113

1965

10

Medical Care Research and Review

13328

636

55

20,96

1995

52

2,600

3,638

2

0

0

119

1944

11

Hastings Center Report

11744

2179

47

5,39

1990

20

1,080

1,131

0

0

0

132

1971

12

International Journal of Health Services

11664

1102

46

10,58

1990

20

0,988

1,236

2

0

0

133

1971

13

Health and Quality of Life Outcomes

11595

1199

44

9,67

2006

4

2,099

3,152

0

0

0

135

2003

14

Journal of Aging and Health

11313

857

45

13,2

1995

7

1,832

2,057

0

0

0

136

1989

15

Journal of Health Politics Policy and Law

10243

1023

41

10,01

1990

15

0,962

1,169

0

0

0

141

1976

16

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved

9865

1466

35

6,73

1995

6

0,902

1,394

0

0

0

144

1990

17

Journal of Community Health

9787

1247

39

7,85

1994

19

1,573

1,765

0

0

0

145

1975

18

Psychology Public Policy and Law

9354

508

45

18,41

1995

1

1,723

2,697

2

0

0

149

1995

19

Journal of Rural Health

8759

943

37

9,29

1996

12

1,771

1,844

0

0

0

156

1985

20

Gesundheitswesen

5518

1610

23

3,43

2000

62

0,624

0,621

0

0

0

187

1946

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

Even though Health Affairs is the most cited journal, the Milbank Quarterly has the highest TC/TP ratio, impact factor, and 5-year impact factor, being the most influential in the category. It is also worthiest to notice that Quality of Life Research has 15 out of the 50 most influential papers in the category, followed by Health Affairs with 11 and Milbank Quarterly with eight. Quality of Life Research and Milbank Quarterly have three papers each in the T200 ranking.

Medicine

Medicine is one of the world’s oldest categories in the arena of health research, allowing scientists and physicians to communicate their advances. The results of this category are displayed in Table 7.
Table 7

Most influential journals in Medicine

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

178865

7809

120

22,9

1990

42

2,736

2,947

9

1

1

6

1921

2

Journal of General Internal Medicine

114351

4688

120

24,39

1990

5

3,423

3,744

14

3

3

13

1986

3

Academic Medicine

92662

7000

98

13,24

1990

65

3,468

3,654

12

1

1

17

1926

4

Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

84422

4933

83

17,11

1990

84

1,931

2,453

1

0

0

20

1908

5

Psychiatric Services

74932

4731

91

15,84

1995

46

1,987

2,807

6

0

0

24

1950

6

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management

71194

3586

95

19,85

1991

6

2,737

3,240

2

0

0

27

1986

7

Tropical Medicine & International Health

56435

3196

74

17,66

1996

1

2,302

2,953

0

0

0

35

1996

8

Nicotine & Tobacco Research

28496

1975

61

14,43

2003

5

2,805

3,125

2

0

0

69

1999

9

Palliative Medicine

25715

1711

63

15,03

1995

9

2,845

3,565

0

0

0

71

1987

10

Journal of Womens Health

20943

1932

49

10,84

1997

6

1,896

1,989

1

0

0

85

1992

11

Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics

18094

2429

45

7,45

1990

13

1,248

1,471

1

1

1

101

1978

12

Annals of Human Biology

15402

1414

44

10,89

1990

17

1,148

1,515

0

0

0

111

1974

13

Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice

13335

1785

44

7,47

1999

5

1,580

1,534

0

0

0

118

1995

14

Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases

13124

1248

41

10,52

2003

3

2,531

2,635

0

0

0

124

2001

15

Journal of Public Health Dentistry

11983

1012

46

11,84

1990

50

1,644

1,653

0

0

0

130

1941

16

Journal of Palliative Medicine

11142

1586

39

7,03

2005

8

2,063

2,446

0

0

0

138

1987

17

European Journal of Cancer Care

9674

1056

40

9,16

1999

8

1,762

1,813

0

0

0

147

1992

18

Journal of Medical Screening

9179

675

41

13,6

1998

5

2,722

2,234

0

0

0

150

1994

19

Implementation Science

8777

883

39

9,94

2006

1

3,470

4,098

1

0

0

155

2006

20

Medical Anthropology Quarterly

8041

608

40

13,23

1990

4

0,607

1,117

0

0

0

159

1987

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene is the most influential according to its total number of citations of 178,865. However, the h-index is the same for the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and the Journal of General Internal Medicine, but the TC/TP ratio and impact factor is higher for the latter. The highest impact factor and 5-year impact factor is for the Implementation Science journal. In the T50 ranking, Academic Medicine appears with 12 papers, the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene with 9, and the Journal of General Internal Medicine has 14 in this ranking and three in the T200 ranking.

Health informatics, engineering and technology

This category involves the research and integration of resources, devices, and methodologies to optimize the use of information to provide a better healthcare. The Top ten journals in this category are shown in Table 8.
Table 8

Most influential journals in Health Informatics, Engineering and Technology

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association

47258

3139

94

15,06

2000

7

3,932

4,182

26

0

0

40

1994

2

Health Physics

39417

4799

62

8,21

1990

58

0,774

1,105

4

1

1

52

1958

3

International Journal of Medical informatics

22736

1696

55

13,41

1997

44

2,716

-

5

0

0

80

1970

4

Methods of information in Medicine

17886

1704

47

10,5

1990

24

1,083

1,448

3

0

0

102

1962

5

Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare

16334

1980

45

8,25

1998

4

1,736

1,661

0

0

0

106

1995

6

Journal of Medical Internet Research

15683

1271

53

12,34

1999

1

4,669

5,724

4

0

0

108

1999

7

International Journal of Technology Assessment in Health Care

15141

1346

45

11,25

1995

11

1,556

1,565

3

0

0

112

1985

8

Health Technology Assessment

13181

650

56

20,28

2004

8

5,116

5,404

5

1

0

123

1997

9

Journal of Medical Systems

5709

1188

26

4,81

1992

16

1,372

1,482

0

0

0

186

1977

10

International Journal of Health Geographics

4350

485

28

8,97

2007

6

1,967

2,675

0

0

0

202

2002

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

The Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association is the most influential in this category with the highest number of citations, h-index, TC/TP ranking, impact factor, 5-year impact factor. Additionally, it has 52 % of the papers among the 50 most cited of the category, but none in the T200. Health Physics and Health Technology Assessment have one paper each in the T200 ranking.

Primary care

Primary care is all the regular health services and social services that are available for the population, and its research is at the cornerstone for building a strong healthcare system. Table 9 presents the Top ten journals in this category.
Table 9

Most influential journals in Primary Care

R

Journal name

TC

TP

H

TC/TP

Year

Volume

IF

IF5

T50

T200

T200*

GR

First year

1

British Journal of General Practice

47635

5770

74

8,26

1990

40

2,356

2,516

8

0

0

39

1953

2

American Family Physician

43288

5726

62

7,56

1990

41

1,818

2,056

4

0

0

47

1970

3

Journal of Family Practice

37511

3371

78

11,13

1990

30

0,735

0,729

17

1

1

55

1974

4

Family Practice

35533

2322

66

15,3

1990

7

1,842

2,071

6

0

0

58

1984

5

Annals of Family Medicine

16159

666

59

24,26

2004

2

4,570

5,250

9

0

0

107

2003

6

Canadian Family Physician

13319

5046

35

2,64

1990

36

1,403

1,646

0

0

0

120

1955

7

Family Medicine

10804

1546

38

6,99

2000

32

0,851

1,284

3

1

1

139

1981

8

Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care

9132

866

35

10,55

1995

13

1,610

1,889

0

0

0

152

1983

9

Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine

7230

898

32

8,05

2006

19

1,848

2,064

2

0

0

168

1988

10

Primary Care

6856

1244

28

5,51

1990

17

0,833

1,084

1

0

0

174

1974

Abbreviations: TC Total citations, TP Total papers, H Hirsch index, TC/TP Average citations per paper, IF Impact factor, IF5 5-year impact factor, T50 Number of papers among the 50 most cited of the category, T200 and T200* Number of papers among the 200 most cited in all fields of health between 1990–2014 and before 1990, GR Global ranking considering all the journals

The most cited journal is the British Journal of General Practice, followed by the American Family Physician, the Journal of Family Practice, and Family Practice. The highest h-index is for the Journal of Family Practice. While these four papers are the most cited, Annals of Family Medicine is the journal with the highest impact factor, and 5-year impact factor. Among the 50 most cited papers in this category, the Journal of Family Practice has 34 % of them, followed by Annals of Family Medicine with 18 %, the British Journal of General Practice with 16 %, and Family Practice with 12 %. There are two journals in the T200 ranking with one paper each, which are the Journal of Family Practice and Family Medicine.

Comparison between fields

Finally, let us provide a general picture of the publication and citation structure of each health category. Table 10 presents the results.
Table 10

Global results for each category

Category name

NJ

H

TC

TP

TC/TP

T200

T200*

Public Health

61

261

1.237.899

83.365

14,85

38

28

Environmental and Ocupational Health

47

215

1.091.045

73.649

14,81

25

6

Health Management and Economics

29

188

474.540

28.547

16,62

22

13

Health Promotion and Health Behaviour

73

218

1.156.553

78.542

14,73

21

19

Epidemiology

25

325

1.806.202

66.097

27,33

39

69

Health Policy and Services

40

172

484.055

37.911

12,77

8

8

Medicine

51

184

951.188

69.198

13,75

6

6

Health Informatics, Engineering and Technology

18

123

214.135

21.205

10,10

2

1

Primary Health Care

18

113

250.486

34.269

7,31

2

2

Note that the columns of the T200 and the T200* do not sum up to 200 because some of the most cited papers were published in journals that currently are not indexed in WoS for several reasons

Abbreviations: NJ Number of journals

Epidemiology is the most influential category over the last 25 years with the highest number of citations, citations per paper, h-index and the largest number of articles among the 200 most cited before and after 1990. Public Health also obtains very remarkable results being the category with the largest number of articles. However, the category with the highest number of journals is Health Promotion and Health Behavior.

Discussion and conclusions

This study showed some remarkable viewpoints about health journals currently indexed in WoS database between 1990 and 2014. This analysis shows the results obtained by health journals under a wide range of bibliometric indicators. This is very useful to see the general results from a broader perspective than the Journal Citation Reports of WoS. Particularly, this is very useful for PhD students and newcomers in the field in order to get a general orientation of the leading journals in health research.

The results provide a general picture of the current position of the leading journals in this field for the nine categories analyzed, which can be rank in terms of total papers as follows: (1) Public Health, (2) Health Promotion and Health Behavior, (3) Medicine, (4) Environmental and Occupational Health, (5) Epidemiology, (6) Health Policy and Services, (7) Health Management and Economics, (8) Health Informatics, Engineering and Technology, and (9) Primary Care. The results indicate that Epidemiology is the most influential category although Public Health is the largest one. Focusing on journals, the American Journal of Epidemiology, Environmental Health Perspectives, American Journal of Public Health, and Social Science & Medicine, have the highest number of citations which shows the largest influence in absolute terms. However, some other journals achieve better results when looking to other indicators. For example, according to the citations per paper ratio, the leading journals are Epidemiologic Reviews, Annual Review of Public Health, and Journal of Health and Social Behavior. This indicates that the journals considered in the study have different profiles with a wide variety of objectives. Almost all the leading journals are published in English although some journals may also publish in some other popular European languages including German, Spanish, French and Italian. Note that many journals have entered the WoS database during the last years although the most popular ones have been in the database for a long time.

In conclusion, by bibliometric methodology, the findings and suggestions of this study can help scientific researchers understand the performance and trends of health research globally. With the help of these findings researchers can make informed decisions of their research directions, in terms of identifying top journals of the discipline, and choose exchange platforms for their research. This study also helps to learn more about the subfields of health research, and identify emerging areas of research today such as public health, health promotion and health behavior and epidemiology, and also how most areas of health research have started to decline in number of citations from 2006.

From a general perspective, health research is a very broad area that includes a wide range of topics. This article classifies the material according to some of the most significant topics. However, it is worth noting that more specific topics could also be considered because each journal considers specific topics that do not depend on the topics followed by other journals. Moreover, the study assigns each journal to one category but sometimes the journal could also be considered in another category. For solving this issue, the last column of each table (GR) considers the global ranking that each journal obtains when merging all the journals in the same list and ordering according to the number of citations. This allows comparison between journals from different categories. But note that each category or group of journals may have a different profile with a different volume of publications and citations. Therefore, it is not easy to compare journals with different topics and categories. Finally, recall that WoS has several limitations when classifying bibliographic material that should also be considered in this article [49]. Additionally, many other issues may affect research in this field including open access and electronic journals. Note that only those included in WoS are considered in the analysis.

Abbreviations

GR: 

Global Ranking

WoS: 

Web of Science

Declarations

Acknowledgments

Not applicable for this manuscript.

Funding

The authors have no support or funding to report.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information file “Additional file 1”.

Authors’ contribution

The contribution of the author was as followed: JM developed the original research idea and questions, obtained the data for this study, conducted data analysis, interpreted the results, and wrote the manuscript. AN contributed to the original research idea and questions, conducted data analysis, interpreted the results, and contributed to the writing and revisions of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Authors’ information

Not applicable.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Consent for publication

Not applicable.

Ethics approval and consent to participate

Not applicable.

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Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Department of Management Control and Information Systems, School of Economics and Business, Universidad de Chile

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Copyright

© The Author(s). 2016