September 20, 2017

New insights from mapping the global burden of disease

The Lancet calls the new report β€œthe most comprehensive worldwide observational epidemiological study to date.”

This report, "Mortality by cause for 8 regions of the world: Global Burden Disease Study," is an update - 20 years later – of a revolutionary idea at the time. The two men, Chris Murray, a young Rhodes scholar at the time and Alan Lopez, a WHO epidemiologist, who engineered it started with just over 100 diseases and injuries which has grown to more than 300. In the early years, they considered 10 risk factors for ill health, such as tobacco and alcohol. Today there are 80 risk factors.

Over the years, new infections such as Ebola and Zika have come into play. And the new study shows a rise in non-infectious diseases. Diabetes was the 24th leading contributor to the global burden of disease in 1990. Here are a few more highlights from the study:

  • 1.1 billion people were living with mental health and substance abuse disorders in 2016;
  • tobacco is linked with 7.1 million deaths;
  • poor diet is associated with 1 in 5 deaths;
  • deaths from firearms and terrorism have increased globally;
  • 72 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by non-communicable diseases.

Later this month in Seattle, Bill Gates is scheduled to give the keynote address, as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been the major funder of the Global Burden of Disease Project. The new study will provide the backdrop against which the world needs to respond to disease and disease risk.