Results were published this month from The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 Study (GBD 2010). The most widely reporting findings are that the leading causes of death and disability worldwide are heart disease, stroke and respiratory diseases (see this table comparing 1990 and 2010). The authors of the study also stressed the importance of the major causes of health loss – mental health, musculoskeletal health, and diabetes.
Against the general picture of a global disease burden shifting away from communicable to non-communicable disease sub-Saharan African remains an outlier where communicable disease and nutritional issues continue to cause half of premature deaths (The Lancet). However, researchers did comment on the rise in Africa of illnesses historically considered “Western ailments” diabetes and heart disease but also chronic pain, anxiety and depression. A post at Africa is a Country warned against “triumphal” narratives which read the shifting disease burden in Africa as linked to economic development and rising income levels (last year The Economist memorably characterized non communicable diseases in developing countries as growing pains).
GBD 2010 is a striking example of the epidemiological data deluge Theresa MacPhail described here earlier this year. A special issue of The Lancet discusses some of the methodological challenges the project faced as researchers from different disciplines made decisions about how to interpret the data. At PLOS Medicine Emma Veitch argues that the value of the project is limited unless the original datasets are made public to serve as the starting point for discussion and debate.
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