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Transforming global health with metrics: Chris Murray

For today’s Humanosphere podcast, we’re talking with Chris Murray, director of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

Chris MurrayAn institute of health metrics may sound to some like a dry and tedious sort of academic institution, or line of work – health statistics.

But, as Tom Paulson makes clear in this podcast, Murray and his gang of number-crunchers are actually revolutionaries. Humanosphere regularly publishes their findings and analyses as an ongoing series we dub global health visualizations (because their data is often best appreciated graphically).

Back in the 1990s, Murray and his colleague Alan Lopez recognized that international efforts to fight disease were focused mostly on what killed people.

That sounds sensible enough, until you realize that this focus neglects many diseases and disorders that do more harm to more people without EpicMeasureskilling them, immediately anyway.

We talk with Murray about what led them to that Eureka moment, why better numbers are not always welcome (and can sometimes be downright explosive) and how this desire for a more accurate assessment of health on the planet led them to do a massive ongoing initiative known today as the Global Burden of Disease. A new book on this story is due out soon, called Epic Measures, which documents the endeavor and explains why the Global Burden of Disease study is so transformative and revolutionary – even if it is just data and numbers.

As usual, Tom and I discuss some of the top news items in the Humanosphere including the challenge to the aid and development community posed by the cyclone that has devastated the Pacific island(s) nation of Vanuatu, the long-term child health implications of the Ebola crisis in West Africa and the terrorist attack in Tunisia.

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About Author

Gabe Spitzer

Gabriel Spitzer covers health and science at KPLU, after a year covering youth and education. He joined KPLU after years covering science, health and the environment at WBEZ in Chicago.