A massive study of death, disability and disease on Earth, coordinated out of Seattle and to be officially published in The Lancet on Friday, could do for global health something like what Galileo did for the solar system.
It’s called the Global Burden of Disease (technically, the Global Burden of Disease, Injuries and Risk Factors Study 2010) and it is, like its earlier incarnations dating back to 1990, almost guaranteed to provoke and disrupt the international community’s approach to improving global health.
The good news is that people, in general, are living longer. The bad news is more of them seem to be fatter, still smoking too much and suffering from disabilities.
Just as the 16th century astronomer Galileo – much to the dismay of the religious orthodoxy of the time – displaced Earth from its celestial prominence in favor of the Sun, the new Global Burden of Disease may displace infectious disease from its position as the categorical center of the global health universe.
Think the top three killers in the world are scourges like AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria? Think again, of heart disease, respiratory infections and stroke.
Think preventing death is the best way to tell if we’re winning the war on disease? You better think again about that as well since rates of obesity, chronic pain, injury and mental illness may say more….
“We were surprised by many of the findings,” said Chris Murray, one of the founders of the study and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
“The simple purpose of this study has always been to provide the best scientific evidence on patterns of disease and disability to help us make sense of what’s happening out there and set priorities,” Murray said.
Sounds simple enough. So why did it take some 500 researchers more than five years to do it? Continue reading