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Global Burden Of Disease Study Finds People Worldwide Living Longer, But With More Illness, Disability

“A sharp decline in deaths from malnutrition and infectious diseases like measles and tuberculosis has caused a shift in global mortality patterns over the past 20 years, according to a [study released] on Thursday, with far more of the world’s population now living into old age and dying from diseases mostly associated with rich countries, like cancer and heart disease,” the New York Times reports (Tavernise, 12/13). The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, “published in the Lancet, has taken more than five years and involves 486 authors in 50 countries,” the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog notes (Mead, 12/13). Researchers worldwide “drew conclusions from nearly 100,000 data sources, including surveys, censuses, hospital records and verbal autopsies,” NPR’s “Shots” blog writes (Doucleff, 12/13). The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study 2010 consists of “[s]even separate reports conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, the Harvard School of Public Health, and elsewhere [that] gauged people’s health in 187 countries and determined that developing countries are looking more like richer Westernized countries in terms of the health problems that pose the biggest burden: high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease,” according to the Boston Globe (Kotz, 12/13).

“[T]he report represents the biggest systematic effort to portray the world’s distribution and causes of a wide range of major diseases, injuries, and health risk factors, and the first since a 1990 GBD study was commissioned by the World Bank, according to a Lancet press release,” CIDRAP notes (Schnirring, 12/13). “Since then, campaigns to vaccinate kids against diseases like polio and measles have reduced the number of children dying to about seven million” from more than 10 million in 1990, the Associated Press writes (Cheng, 12/13). “The risk of dying prematurely from many ‘adult’ diseases (such as heart attacks and cancer) has also fallen because of better treatment and prevention,” the Washington Post reports, noting, “Soon after 2015, for the first time in history, there will be more people older than 65 than younger than five” (Brown, 12/13). However, the study “finds that countries face a wave of financial and social costs from rising numbers of people living with disease and injury,” Reuters writes (Kelland, 12/13). “The [study] should help the world’s medical authorities direct their fire more effectively,” according to the Economist, which notes “the time may have come for a review of the world’s approach to public health, for vaccination, antibiotics, insecticides and the like are useless against heart disease, diabetes and cancer” (12/15). The Guardian’s “Data Blog” presents data from the study using two interactive infographics (Rogers, 12/13). The blog EpiAnalysis provides highlights from the report along with a number of infographics (12/13).