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The memorandum of understanding aims to improve estimates of levels and trends in health

SEATTLE—The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have signed an agreement to improve data used to generate estimates of levels and trends in health. 

As the quality and quantity of data vary widely by country, statistical models are used to generate estimates of disease burden in countries. Different models can yield different estimates, and the IHME/WHO agreement aims to improve estimates from both organizations and to inform the ongoing Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.  

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two organizations was signed today by Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation.

“We are progressively moving toward working collaboratively on measurement around the world, and this is an important step in that direction,” said Dr. Murray. “It’s a big agenda we’ve mapped out including working more closely and sharing data and methods.”

“I think we have a bright future working together with you having the capacity to develop new methods and us having the capacity to work with countries,” said Dr. Kieny at the MOU signing ceremony in Seattle. “We see this as a very positive move. This is a milestone in the relationship and we will look forward to many years of projects.”

The GBD enterprise dates to the early 1990s, when the World Bank commissioned the original GBD study and featured it in the landmark World Development Report 1993: Investing in Health. Co-authored by Dr. Murray, this GBD study served as the most comprehensive effort up to that point to systematically measure the world’s health problems, generating estimates for 107 diseases and 483 sequelae (nonfatal health consequences related to a disease). It covered eight regions and five age groups with estimates through 1990.

Academic papers from GBD 1990 have been cited more than 11,000 times since they were published.

GBD work was institutionalized at the World Health Organization, and the organization continued to update GBD findings. In 1998, the WHO created a Disease Burden Unit, which generated GBD estimates and published them in its annual World Health Reports.

The next comprehensive GBD update, the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 (GBD 2010) published new estimates for 1990 to 2010 in The Lancet in December 2012 in seven papers, commentaries, and accompanying comprehensive web appendices totaling more than 2,300 pages. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, GBD 2010 significantly broadened the scope of previous versions of GBD.

While the earlier work had been conducted mainly by researchers at Harvard and WHO, GBD 2010 also expanded the enterprise to bring together a community of experts from around the world in epidemiology, statistics, and other disciplines. Now GBD is being continuously updated with publications coming out regularly, and the network now includes more than 1,000 contributors from 108 countries. New findings with results through 2013 have been published in a series of papers on smoking; maternal mortality; child mortality; overweight and obesity; HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis; and causes of death.

Further papers on nonfatal outcomes, disability-adjusted life years, and risk factors are in the process of being published. GBD collaborators are now working on the next update, which will show results through 2015.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research organization at the University of Washington that provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them. The Institute’s mission is to improve health through better health evidence.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the specialized health agency of the United Nations. One of its core mandates is to work with countries to improve their capacity to collect and report on vital statistics such as births and deaths, as well as measure the burden of hundreds of diseases and injuries.