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Causes of global death and disease in the next 25 years

In 1993, the World Bank sponsored the 1990 Global Burden of Disease study carried out by researchers at Harvard University and the World Health Organization (WHO).

This study provided the first comprehensive global estimates of death and illness by age, sex, and region. It also provided projections of the global burden of disease and mortality up to 2020. The study and its projections have been crucial in national and international health policy planning.

Colin Mathers and Dejan Locar (from the World Health Organization, Geneva) have now updated the projections based on 2002 data on mortality and burden of disease and published their results in the international open-access journal PLoS Medicine.

As for the earlier report, the researchers used projections of socio-economic development to model future patterns of mortality and illness for three different scenarios: a baseline scenario, a pessimistic scenario that assumes a slower rate of socio-economic development, and an optimistic scenario that assumes a faster rate of growth.

They predict that between 2002 and 2030 under all three scenarios life expectancy will increase around the world, fewer children under the age of 5 years will die, and the proportion of people dying from non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and cancer will increase. Although deaths from infectious diseases will decrease overall, HIV/AIDS deaths will continue to increase. Despite this increase, 50% more people are predicted to die of tobacco-related disease than of HIV/AIDS in 2015. By 2030, the three leading causes of illness will be HIV/AIDS, depression, and ischemic heart disease in the baseline and pessimistic scenarios. In the optimistic scenario, road-traffic accidents (which increase with socioeconomic development) will replace heart disease as the number 3 killer.

In an accompanying editorial, the PLoS Medicine editors ask whether they are publishing “the right stuff”, i.e. research and commentary whose goal it is to reduce mortality and suffering from the most relevant conditions--and whether research funding and health expenditure are consistent with these results.

Citation: Mathers CD, Loncar D (2006) Projections of global mortality and burden of disease from 2002 to 2030. PLoS Med 3(11): e442.

Andrew Hyde | alfa
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