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Comparing global health claims to data: a look at the 2011 Snooze Report

The number of organizations working on — or claiming to be — improving global health is growing by leaps and bounds. And nearly all of them do reports.

Spotted by Global Health Hub, here is a highly irreverent and sometimes hilarious perspective on the shifting and soft evidence behind these reports by Sanjay Basu at the University of California San Francisco:

Global health reports have a propensity to include dramatic pleas for attention. Here’s a formula: if you want to define yourself in global health politics, pick a disease or population, present yourself as the world’s leading advocate for that topic or group, and write reports that declare your issue neglected or misunderstood by ignorant masses paying “too much attention” to “popular” causes of death … Better yet, include striking statistics about your issue that no one can verify, with accompanying photographs of pregnant women or cute children (darker skins preferred).

Basu, who posted his thoughts first on his blog EpiAnalysis, looks to the World Health Organization’s annual World Health Statistics report — which he calls the Snooze Report, because of its ability to cure insomnia — and digs in deeper to answer the question:

Under this cloud of information and politics, we seek the answer to a seemingly-simple question: what is actually happening to human health?


About Author

Tom Paulson

Tom Paulson is founder and lead journalist at Humanosphere. Prior to operating this online news site, he reported on science,  medicine, health policy, aid and development for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Contact him at tom[at] or follow him on Twitter @tompaulson.