The journal was founded in 1947 by John Ryle, a highly respected physician who was regarded as "one of the most distinguished figures in contemporary medicine" for his time, and has been published under various titles. Former titles are:
The journal began published its first issue in London on January 1947 under its original name, the British Journal of Social Medicine. The journal’s current mission is to be “a truly international journal that encompasses all aspects of epidemiology and public health” which seems fairly commonplace in today’s world of globalized journals but given its beginnings in the aftermath of World War II and start of the Cold War era, the emergence of this new journal and its mission is impressive. Social medicine as a field of study had not been well respected since before World War I began due to leading social medicine researchers associating their work with racial hygiene theories so introducing a journal using this specific terminology was a bold move in itself. Creating a new journal focused on international social health during a period of high political and military tension across nations furthered the statement the journal was trying to make – social medicine is important and needs attention beyond country lines.
The journal is abstracted and indexed by: