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New study presents state of the world's health

Note for the media

WHO today published a new assessment of the global burden of disease, a study that provides the reader with a comprehensive picture of the global and regional state of health. Drawing from extensive data across the Organization, it features comparisons between deaths, diseases and injuries by region, age, sex and country income for the year 2004. It also provides projections of deaths and burden of disease by cause and region to the year 2030.

The study contains details of the top 10 causes of death and estimates for over 130 disease and injury causes. Striking findings include:

  • Worldwide, Africa accounts for nine out of every 10 child deaths due to malaria, for nine out of every 10 child deaths due to AIDS, and for half of the world's child deaths due to diarrhoeal disease and pneumonia.
  • The top five causes of death in low-income countries are: pneumonia, followed by heart disease, diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS and stroke. In high-income countries, the list is topped by heart disease and followed by stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia, and asthma/bronchitis.
  • Men between the ages of 15 and 60 years have much higher risks of dying than women in the same age category in every region of the world. This, is mainly due to injuries, including those caused in violence and conflict, and to higher levels of heart diseases. This difference is most pronounced in Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and the eastern European regions.
  • Depression is the leading cause of years lost due to disability, the burden being 50% higher for females than males. In both low- and middle-income countries, and high-income countries, alcohol dependence and problem use are among the 10 leading causes of disability.

The production and dissemination of health information for action is one of WHO's core mandated activities. This study provides Member States with an important input for health decision making, planning and priority setting.

"It is vital that we have a global and regional picture of deaths, disease and disability," says Colin Mathers, Coordinator for Epidemiology and Burden of Disease at WHO and lead author of the study. "This study enables policy-makers and countries to identify the gaps and ensure that help and efforts are directed to those who are most in need. The countries can use the information to create strategies and cost-effective interventions aimed at improving health across the world."

The study contains information on:

  • causes of death in different parts of the world
  • the leading causes of death by age, sex and disease
  • the numbers of people with various diseases and disabilities
  • how many people become ill each year
  • the causes of loss of health and the actual loss of years of good health: these are measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). One DALY is equivalent to the loss of one year of full health.
For more information contact:

Natalie Boudou-Jacobs
Communications Officer
Information, Evidence and Research
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 1036
E-mail: boudoun@who.int

Fiona Fleck
Communications Officer
Information, Evidence and Research
WHO, Geneva
Telephone: +41 22 791 1897
E-mail: fleckf@who.int

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