SEATTLE—The University of Washington Press has published An Integrative Metaregression Framework for Descriptive Epidemiology, an in-depth explanation of the methods underlying the morbidity estimation in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study.
The GBD study produces comprehensive estimates of over 300 diseases and risk factors in 188 countries from 1990 to the present, results that can be used by policymakers, health professionals, and funders to inform priorities for improving the health of the world’s populations.
Edited by Assistant Professor Abraham Flaxman, Professor Theo Vos, and Professor Christopher Murray, the book delves into the process of disease modeling used the GBD enterprise. In many parts of the world, health data are sparse and of variable quality. Mathematical modeling is used to take data collected from different sources, correct for inconsistencies, and fill in gaps when data are incomplete.
Dr. Flaxman is the primary architect of the software tool known as DisMod-MR (for Disease Modeling – Metaregression), which is used to produce GBD estimates of the number of deaths from each cause by age, sex, country, and year. For this work, he was included in Technology Review’s 2012 TR35 list, which honors the world’s top innovators under the age of 35. Dr. Flaxman was the first expert in health measurement to be selected for this accolade.
After completing a PhD in Algorithms, Combinatorics, and Optimization at Carnegie Mellon University, Dr. Flaxman completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Microsoft Research. Wanting to use his math and computer science skills to contribute to a greater good, he then started at IHME in 2008 as a Post-Graduate Fellow and was soon hired as a University of Washington faculty member. His work on DisMod-MR was key to the ambitious Global Burden of Disease undertaking that was published as the GBD 2010 study.
“The GBD is incredibly complex,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray, “so much so that we are often asked to give a better explanation of how it works. We have made a big step forward in that regard with the publication of this book.”
In addition to collecting prior work on disease modeling, the book offers practical applications to meta-analysis of several different diseases and concludes with a detailed description of the future directions for research in model-based meta-analysis of descriptive epidemiological data.
“From day one, I envisioned DisMod-MR as an open-source project, but it turns out that there is a lot more to doing reproducible computational research than just putting the code online,” Dr. Flaxman said. “This volume is an important step to further explain the machinery that makes the GBD work.”
The Global Burden of Disease enterprise dates back to the early 1990s and has become a global effort with more than 1,400 researchers in 114 countries. IHME is the coordinating center for the study.