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Visualizing the burden of disease in the Middle East and North Africa

A regional report entitled The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy – Middle East and North Africa Regional Edition, published last week by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the World Bank, highlighted the rapid transitions in health patterns in the region between 1990 and 2010.

Guest post by Katie Leach-Kemon, a policy translation specialist from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

What is the state of health, or burden of disease trends, in the Middle East and North Africa?

A regional report entitled The Global Burden of Disease: Generating Evidence, Guiding Policy – Middle East and North Africa Regional Edition, published last week by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the World Bank, highlighted the rapid transitions in health patterns in the region between 1990 and 2010:

  • People in the Middle East and North Africa are living longer than ever before, but they are living more years with disability from causes such as low back pain, depression and anxiety, and diabetes (see the transition in this video or view it yourself using IHME’s online visualization tool).
  • Non-communicable diseases cause much more premature death and disability (also known as disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs) than in the past (diseases such as ischemic heart disease, low back pain, and depression increased by 44%, 77%, and 58%, respectively, as shown by the blue bars in Figure 7 from the report, shown below.

GBD N. Africa MidEast

  • Most communicable, newborn, nutritional, and maternal causes (conditions largely associated with poverty) declined between 1990 and 2010, as shown by the red bars in Figure 7.
  •  Increasing exposure to potentially preventable risk factors such as poor diet (not eating enough fruit, nuts, and seeds and eating too much sodium), high blood pressure, and obesity/overweight (high body mass index) as shown in the screen grab shown below are helping drive up disease burden from non-communicable diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and low back pain.

GBD NAfrica MidEast 2

 

Next, we’ll look at disease patterns across countries. The Middle East and North Africa region includes the following countries: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Yemen. The screen grab below shows rates of premature death and disability by cause in 1990 among countries in the World Bank region of the Middle East and North Africa as well as some high-income Gulf states for comparison.

GBD NAfrica MidEast 3

The metrics used here account for differences in population size and ages across countries. Go to this screen grab to see different causes of premature death and disability in 2010 in these same countries. For a more in-depth exploration of these changes, you can watch this video showing how disease burden from these different causes has evolved over time (1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010).

Comparing 1990 and 2010 shows that overall rates of premature death and disability have dropped in these countries. Iran and Lebanon had elevated rates of disease burden from conflict in 1990. In 2010, conflict did not stand out as a major driver of disease burden in any country shown in the figure. As the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is updated on an annual basis, you will be able to monitor levels of premature death and disability caused by conflict that occurred after 2010.

In 2010, levels of communicable, newborn, nutritional, and maternal causes in many countries within the Middle East and North Africa region were similar to levels in richer Gulf nations. Djibouti and Yemen, however, stand out as countries that continue to struggle with high rates of disease from these causes despite progress made in fighting them over two decades. Djibouti’s rates of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis increased dramatically between 1990 and 2010.

In this screen grab for 2010, certain countries stand out as having higher rates of premature death and disability from certain diseases and injuries. Morocco and Bahrain, for example, had the highest rates of disease burden due to diabetes (click here for a detailed view), while rates of ischemic heart disease in Egypt and Syria were greater compared to the other countries (detailed comparison available here).

I encourage you to explore the visualization tools yourself to gain additional insights into differences and/or similarities across time, countries, age groups, and sexes. Tell us more about what you’re finding on social media such as Twitter (#GBD2010) and Facebook.

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Humanosphere will sometimes post articles from authors from around the globe. Although these folks are not regular contributors, we hope you enjoy this change of pace.