This third edition of the Maternal and Child Health Thesaurus was developed by the Maternal and Child Health Library, National Center for Education in Maternal and Child Health (NCEMCH), at Georgetown University, under Cooperative Agreement U02MC00001 with the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau reserves a royalty-free, nonexclusive, and irrevocable right to use the work for federal purposes and to authorize others to use the work for federal purposes.
Comments about this edition or suggestions for future editions of the thesaurus are welcome, and can be directed to the compiler at email@example.com or by calling (202) 784-9776.
The purpose of developing this thesaurus is to provide the maternal and child health (MCH) professional community with a standard vocabulary in MCH program development and management, including health services, research, training, and program administration. The vocabulary focuses on public health; clinical medical terms such as the names of diseases and therapeutic procedures are excluded except when they are germane to public health or MCH. The vocabulary contained here will allow for the indexing and retrieval of a wide variety of materials including government documents, technical reports, educational materials, audiovisual materials, programs, and grants. The thesaurus will be useful to MCH resource centers, libraries, special collections, and databases in organizations such as government agencies; universities and schools of public health; nonprofit and professional organizations that provide information to health professionals, families, and the public; special projects funded by MCHB; and other agencies with programs funded under Title V of the Social Security Act.
Core topics in this thesaurus are (1) women's health, with a primary focus on pregnancy and maternal health; (2) infant, child, and adolescent health; (3) oral health; (4) nutrition; (5) injury and violence prevention; (6) chronic illnesses and disabilities, as related to the MCH population; (7) care of children and adolescents with special health care needs; (8) genetics; and (9) public health programs and services.
The thesaurus contains 3,905 terms.
Development of the Thesaurus
The second edition of the MCH thesaurus was developed and published by the National Maternal and Child Health Clearinghouse (NMCHC) in 1996. The first edition of the thesaurus was developed by the National Center for Policy Coordination in Maternal and Child Health at the Institute for Child Health Policy, University of Florida, and NMCHC and published in 1991. The MCH Library has used these editions and previous keyword lists to index MCHLine®, the library catalog, and the library's Organizations Database. A subset of the vocabulary has been used to index the library's MCH Projects Database and MCHB's Title V Information System. Starting in 2005, MCHB's Discretionary Grants Information System is using the complete list of terms from the MCH Thesaurus.
When this edition was initiated, staff compared terms in the second edition with terms that had been used in the library databases; terms that had never been used were considered for deletion. In particular, many names of diseases and disorders and names of medical equipment and procedures were deleted. Since 1996, staff have maintained a list of suggested new terms, and these terms were also reviewed and incorporated as necessary.
Staff consulted numerous other thesauri to determine the best way to express new concepts for the thesaurus. In particular, staff used Medical Subject Headings, developed and published by the National Library of Medicine, and the Thesaurus of ERIC Descriptors, developed by the U.S. Department of Education's Educational Resources Information Center and published by Oryx Press. Thesauri in specialized fields such as population and demographics, psychology, health education, nutrition, and nursing were also consulted. Staff also utilized the American National Standards Institute's Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Thesauri (ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2003).
The thesaurus was developed using the TCS-8 software from WebChoir, previously the Lui-Palmer Thesaurus Construction System. The thesaurus has been posted to the MCH Library Web site by the MCH Library's Information Technology team and is located at http://www.mchthesaurus.info.
The MCH Thesaurus consists of preferred and nonpreferred terms. The preferred terms, commonly known as descriptors, consist of one or more words that represent a single concept and are used in indexing the library's databases. Nonpreferred terms are not used in indexing but are provided to guide searchers to the descriptor that has been selected for indexing the same concept. For example, Adolescents has been selected as a preferred term and there is a cross reference to it from the nonpreferred terms Juveniles and Teenagers. Both preferred and nonpreferred terms are alphabetized on a word-by-word basis in all thesaurus lists. Word-by-word means that descriptors beginning with a shorter word come before descriptors beginning with a longer word that starts with the same letters as the shorter word. For example, Access to prenatal care comes before Accessible facilities.
Terms are expressed as nouns or noun phrases (terms with more than one word). Noun phrases are expressed in natural word order (e.g., Premature infants, not Infants, premature). The plural form is used when a descriptor can be quantified (e.g., Child health programs, Interviews) and the singular form is used when a descriptor designates a process, activity, or condition (e.g., Nursing, Pregnancy). Phrases with prepositions are used only when the concept cannot be well expressed another way (e.g., Emergency medical services for children). Abbreviations are used for concepts that have become well known by their abbreviations (e.g., HIV, AIDS).
Standard dictionary definitions are assumed to apply to the terms selected for inclusion in the thesaurus. Scope notes are occasionally provided to clarify ambiguous or less-known terms or to provide guidelines for using them in indexing and searching.
The MCH Thesaurus consists of the following sections:
- An alphabetical list of descriptors and nonpreferred terms showing relationships for each term.
- A rotated list of descriptors that provides an alphabetic index to terms under each significant word contained in the term.
- Subject categories that display terms according to 21 broad categories.
The alphabetical list is the most comprehensive display in the thesaurus. It provides a variety of information for each term, as shown in this example (abbreviated from the full thesaurus entry):
SN Persons between puberty and maturity
BT Age groups
NT Adolescent females
Adolescents with special health care needs
RT Adolescent development
The meaning of the abbreviations is as follows:
SN: Scope Note. A Scope Note provides information on the descriptor's intended use. The Scope Note may provide a definition of the descriptor, distinguish between descriptors that have overlapping meanings in natural language, clarify or restrict the descriptor's use within the field of MCH, or offer guidelines for indexing or searching.
UF: Used For. A Used For reference identifies nonpreferred terms that represent varied forms of the preferred term, such as synonyms, nonpreferred variants, abbreviations or acronyms, and spelled-out versions of abbreviations and acronyms. Used For references may also represent specific terms that are indexed under a more general term. Used For references are not to be used in indexing or searching. Each Used For term appears separately in the alphabetical list as a USE reference that sends the user back to the preferred term, for example,
Juveniles USE Adolescents
BT: Broader Term. A Broader Term indicates a class or a whole to which the descriptor belongs. To reduce complexity and confusion in the thesaurus, only Broader Terms that are one level up in the hierarchy are shown. A term may have more than one Broader Term, each of which is at equal levels of the hierarchy, for example,
Workplace health promotion
BT Corporate programs
NT: Narrower Term. A Narrower Term indicates members of the class indicated by the descriptor (generic relationship), a concept inherently included in the descriptor (whole-part relationship), or an individual instance of the category represented by the descriptor (instance relationship), for example,
Food NT Dairy products (generic)
Medicine NT Pediatrics (whole-part)
Federal legislation NT Public Health Service Act (instance)
The Broader Term-Narrower Term relationship is reciprocal.
RT: Related Term. A Related Term has a close conceptual relationship to the main term but does not have the direct class/subclass relationship of Broader Terms and Narrower Terms. Related Term references help users by reminding them of other terms that they may want to use in indexing or searching. Related Term references and their main terms are reciprocals of one another.
2. Rotated Term List
The rotated term list is designed to help searchers identify terms that share a common word or phrase. It lists each preferred term from the thesaurus by each significant component word in the term. For example, the term Child health is listed twice, once under Child and once under Health. Insignificant words such as prepositions (e.g., for, of, with) are not included, so the term Conflict of interest is listed under Conflict and Interest, but not under Of. Terms sharing the same component word are listed alphabetically at that word. For example, terms containing the word Children are arranged like this:
Children with special health care needs
The rotated term list includes only valid descriptors (preferred terms). It does not include lead-in terms (nonpreferred terms) that are included in the alphabetical list to assist searchers in finding the preferred term for a concept. For example, the alphabetical list includes this entry: Teenagers USE Adolescents. The word Adolescents is in the rotated list, but the word Teenagers is not.
The header word for each group of terms is a valid descriptor only if the same word is included in the list of terms under the header word. For example, Children is a valid descriptor because it is included in the list above. In this entry
the word Ability is not a valid descriptor by itself because it is not included in the list of terms.
3. Subject Categories
The subject categories are a system of broad categories into which all descriptors are grouped. The purpose of these categories is to provide an easy access point, especially for searchers who are unfamiliar with the terms included in the thesaurus. Each term in the thesaurus is assigned to only one subject category. These lists include preferred and nonpreferred terms, so it is important to check the alphabetical list before using a term.
The subject categories are
Agencies and Organizations
Chemicals and Drugs
Diseases and Disorders
Diagnosis and Intervention
Economics and Politics
Education and Training
Facilities and Buildings
Field, Discipline, and Occupational Groups
Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
Health Services Management
Law and Legal Issues
Nutrition and Food
Psychology and Development
Research and Data
Reproduction and Genetics
Social and Demographic Issues
Technology, Information, and Publications
The Web version of this thesaurus, posted at http://www.mchthesaurus.info, includes the PDF version of this document, plus the following:
The Alphabetical List and the Rotated List are broken down into 26 segments that are browsable independently. For example, to find terms related to Children, users can click on the C at the top of either list and bypass the earlier parts of the alphabet.
The Subject Categories are displayed in three ways.
The alphabetical version displays terms within the subject category alphabetically. Users can select a letter of the alphabet to see terms that begin with that letter, and then can click on any term to see the full listing for that term.
- Hierarchical Version
The hierarchical version displays all terms in the subject category arranged by broad terms, with the narrower terms related to each broader term appearing indented underneath the broader term. Bullet points preceding each word indicate the relative levels of the hierarchy, as shown in this example from the Population Groups category (abbreviated from the full thesaurus entry):
• Age groups
• • Children
• • Grandparents
• • Parents
• • • Fathers
• • • • Adolescent fathers
• • • • Single fathers
• • • Mothers
• • • • Adolescent mothers
• • • • Single mothers
- Expandable Version
The expandable version displays only terms at the top level of the hierarchy, with an option to click on a plus sign to see the narrower terms that are related to that term.
Users can select the hierarchical or the expandable version from the navigation bar at the bottom of the Web page. In both versions, users can click on any term to see the full listing for that term. These versions are best viewed in Internet Explorer on both PCs and Apple computers.
The Web version of the thesaurus also provides a search box for searching MCHLine®, the library's online catalog.