13 December 2012

IHME Report Shows Shifting Causes and Overall Decline in Global Mortality

Good news today from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Their new report, Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010), looks at the changing mortality trends from 1990 to 2010 and find that fewer people are dying each year, but the fact that more people are staying alive means that long term risks and problems like mental health disorders and obesity are playing an increasing role in global health.

“We’re finding that very few people are walking around with perfect health and that, as people age, they accumulate health conditions,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of IHME and one of the founders of the Global Burden of Disease in a press release. “At an individual level, this means we should recalibrate what life will be like for us in our 70s and 80s. It also has profound implications for health systems as they set priorities."

Child mortality is down and the causes are changing. The screenshot (above) of an interactive chart provided by IHME shows how diseases like HIV and Malaria are accounting for more deaths now than they did in 1990. Overall, child mortality has decreased at a stunning rate around the world. A fact that was already well known. What stands out, says IHME, is the fact that preventable diseases through vaccination such as measles and rotavirus still kill 1 million children a year.

Most unfortunate, and a finding that seems to come up whenever there are global health reports, is the fact that progress still lags across sub-Saharan Africa when compared to the rest of the world. “Sub-Saharan Africa continues to present a special challenge for a variety of methodological, geographic, and economic reasons,” said Dr. George Mensah, Visiting Full Professor at the University of Cape Town and one of the GBD 2010 co-authors in the release. “The evidence base for estimating causes of death in Africa remains limited."

The big deal about the report, aside from its findings, is the fact that it provides robust data regarding global health trends. Paul Farmer praised it saying, “While the GBD 2010 offers significant epidemiologic findings that will shape policy debates worldwide, it also limns the gaps in existing disease epidemiology knowledge and offers new ways to improve public health data collection and assessment. A broad audience – from public health authorities to funders and policymakers – will benefit from this impressive contribution to the epidemiologic evidence base." Collecting data in the countries with the greatest needs continues to be challenging, but the report provides further evidence that can affect health policies around the world.

Go here to play with the data itself. There are many options and ways to put it to use.