Obituary, Richard Morrow

Innovator on burden of disease measurement

TDR news item
17 September 2013

Professor Richard Morrow, MD, MPH, passed away on 17 August, 2013 at the age of 81. From 1979-1991, Dr Morrow was the responsible officer for the epidemiology component of TDR. He brought a wealth of knowledge that he had acquired from his research on tropical infectious diseases. His studies on the epidemiology of Mycobacterium ulcerans (Buruli ulcer) in Uganda and of hepatitis in Ghana are notable examples of his academic and professional contributions.

His most remarkable scientific contribution was his introduction of an original concept on the measurement of the burden of disease. He put forward the innovative idea of measuring this burden by combining loss of useful life through premature death with the loss due to disability. This innovative approach, published in 1981 by the Ghana Health Assessment Team that he led (see reference below), has been universally adopted by WHO, other health-related organizations and public health specialists. The basic concept has been further refined and adapted. Of the various derivatives of Dr Morrow’s concept, the ‘Disability Adjusted Life Years’ (DALY) is the most familiar measurement of the burden of disease.

Before joining TDR, Dr Morrow was professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health and on leaving WHO he was appointed professor at Johns Hopkins University. Dr Morrow was noted for his keen interest in training scholars and in programmes for strengthening institutions in developing countries, and mentored many protégés.

He is survived by his wife, Helga, four children and nine grandchildren.

With thanks to Adetokunbo O. Lucas, former Director of TDR, for providing this memorial.

Ghana Health Assessment Team 1981 “Quantitative Methods of Assessing Health Impact of Different Diseases in Less Developed Countries.” International Journal of Epidemiology 10 (1), 73-81

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