Last week, researchers published the “Global Burden of Disease Study 2010,” the most comprehensive effort since the GBD 1990 to produce complete and comparable estimates of the burden of diseases and other health challenges. As part of the research, the report compiled massive amounts of date on:

  • 291 diseases and injuries
  • 67 risk factors
  • 1,160 sequelae (nonfatal health consequences)
  • Estimates for 21 regions
  • Estimates for 20 age groups

Ultimately, the GBD 2010 findings generated 650 million estimates for health challenges large and small. The full report was published in The Lancet, and the findings were presented to the Royal Society of London (Agenda).

The press release highlights the major finding that, “Globally, health advances present most people with a devastating irony: avoid premature death but live longer and sicker.” Global challenges like child mortality and malnutrition, infectious and vaccine-preventable diseases, are on the decline. All over the world however, the incidence of non-communicable diseases - heart disease, diabetes, obesity - are on the rise.

"The study underscores significant achievements, such as the dramatic drop in child mortality, which has fallen so quickly that it has beaten every published prediction. But more work remains. Diseases such as diarrhea due to rotavirus and measles continue to kill more than 1 million children under the age of 5 every year, despite effective vaccines against those diseases."

In an article published in Humanosphere, King Holmes, head of global health at the University of Washington and a world-renowned expert on HIV and infectious disease, notes "when it comes to infectious disease it can change back quickly.

"He added that another factor to consider is the ability to effectively intervene, either by treatment or prevention, as opposed to simply setting priorities based on overall burden. Fighting many infectious diseases, Holmes said, offers a big bang for not so many bucks while other problems may have costly or complex interventions infeasible for poor countries."

The Associated Press adds, "While chronic diseases are killing more people nearly everywhere, the overall trend is the opposite in Africa, where illnesses like AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are still major threats. And experts warn again shifting too much of the focus away from those ailments."

Many global health advocates hope that this new data will influence policy decisions about health priortities. According to The Economist, "The result should help the world’s medical authorities direct their fire more effectively. For a decade, they have poured money into dealing with infections... This has worked well, and it certainly does not make sense to let up now."

You can see the full report in the latest edition of The Lancet. Sabin President, Dr. Peter Hotez, is a coauthor on three of the published articles.