The Lancet publishes Global Burden of Disease 2010 study

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Dramatic achievements in health over recent decades

Today we celebrate a landmark in global health knowledge and evidence. After five years and the collaboration of 500 scientists and researchers, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) has been published in The Lancet.

What are the headline findings?

GBD 2010 illustrates the dramatic achievements in health over recent decades. Life expectancy has risen dramatically for both men and women, and there has been a rapid decline in deaths from infectious diseases and malnutrition. Yet estimates confirm these impressive gains in health are being undone by the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to GBD 2010, the annual number of deaths from NCDs has risen by nearly 8 million since 1990. NCDs now account for nearly two out of every three deaths worldwide in 2010. Of the 52.8 million deaths in 2010, NCDs account for 34.5 million or 65.5%.

Most significant, the top five GBD risk factors are all related to the growing NCD burden, reflecting a dramatic transition from earlier studies. According to GBD, high blood pressure is the biggest risk factor for death today – responsible for 9.4 million deaths and 7% of disability – followed by tobacco smoking which caused 6.3 million deaths. Alcohol comes third, responsible for five million deaths worldwide, and physical inactivity and diet – particularly those with high levels of sodium or salt and low levels of fruit consumption – were responsible for 12.5 million deaths.Another headline message all too familiar to the NCD community is that while people are living longer, populations are not necessarily enjoying more years of health. Disability is taking a greater toll on our lives than they were two decades ago and increasingly people are living with chronic illnesses and multiple comorbidities. These trends require a fundamental shift in all health systems and greater integration across the health sector.

Why is the GBD important for NCDs?

GBD 2010 provides an important evidence base on the burden of NCDs and demonstrates the critical importance of NCDs for both global health and development. As advocates, we can draw upon the data to sharpen understanding of trends in disease and risk; use the evidence to stimulate debate and drive evidence-based health policy and planning; and harness GBD to continue political momentum on NCDs and call for urgent action at global, regional and national levels. And the timing could not be better. As the global community focuses its attention on defining the post-2015 development agenda, the GBD 2010 studies provide strong rationale and evidence for the inclusion of NCDs in this agenda.

About the GBD

Launched in 2007, GBD 2010 is a consortium of seven partners: Harvard University; the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, Seattle; John Hopkins University; the University of Queensland; Imperial College London; the University of Tokyo; and the World Health Organization (WHO). The studies published are the first systematic and comprehensive assessment of global data on disease, injuries, and risk, since the first global burden of disease study commissioned by the World Bank in 1990. They represent the most comprehensive and ambitious database of global health ever attempted, and as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim rightly notes, they will “set the terms of health policy, planning, and funding discussions for years to come.”

The full Global Burden of Disease 2010 study is available here.

Source: The NCD Alliance