The Global Burden of Disease: a critical resource for informed policymaking
Everyone, all over the world, deserves to live a long life in full health. In order to achieve this goal, we need a comprehensive picture of what disables and kills people across countries, time, age, and sex. The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) provides a tool to quantify health loss from hundreds of diseases, injuries, and risk factors, so that health systems can be improved and disparities can be eliminated.
In order to align health systems with the populations they serve, policymakers first need to understand the true nature of their country’s health challenges – and how those challenges are shifting over time. That means more than just estimating disease prevalence, such as the number of people with depression or diabetes in a population. GBD research incorporates both the prevalence of a given disease or risk factor and the relative harm it causes. The tools allow decision-makers to compare the effects of different diseases, such as malaria versus cancer, and then use that information at home. To make these results more accessible and useful, IHME has distilled large amounts of complicated information into a suite of interactive data visualizations that allow people to make sense of the over 1 billion data points generated.
Collected and analyzed by a consortium of more than 1,600 researchers in 120 countries, the data capture premature death and disability from more than 300 diseases and injuries in 188 countries, by age and sex, from 1990 to the present, allowing comparisons over time, across age groups, and among populations. The flexible design of the GBD machinery allows for regular updates as new data and epidemiological studies are made available. In that way, the tools can be used at the global, national, and local levels to understand health trends over time, just like gross domestic product data are used to monitor a country’s economic activity.
Policymakers in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and other countries worldwide are collaborating with GBD researchers to adopt this approach for measuring their population’s health and how it varies by different regions, socioeconomic status, or ethnic groups in their country.
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