Measuring the global burden of disease and epidemiological transitions: 2002-2030

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2006 Jul-Sep;100(5-6):481-99. doi: 10.1179/136485906X97417.


Any planning process for health development ought to be based on a thorough understanding of the health needs of the population. This should be sufficiently comprehensive to include the causes of premature death and of disability, as well as the major risk factors that underlie disease and injury. To be truly useful to inform health-policy debates, such an assessment is needed across a large number of diseases, injuries and risk factors, in order to guide prioritization. The results of the original Global Burden of Disease Study and, particularly, those of its 2000-2002 update provide a conceptual and methodological framework to quantify and compare the health of populations using a summary measure of both mortality and disability: the disability-adjusted life-year (DALY). Globally, it appears that about 56 million deaths occur each year, 10.5 million (almost all in poor countries) in children. Of the child deaths, about one-fifth result from perinatal causes such as birth asphyxia and birth trauma, and only slightly less from lower respiratory infections. Annually, diarrhoeal diseases kill over 1.5 million children, and malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS each claim between 500,000 and 800,000 children. HIV/AIDS is the fourth leading cause of death world-wide (2.9 million deaths) and the leading cause in Africa. The top three causes of death globally are ischaemic heart disease (7.2 million deaths), stroke (5.5 million) and lower respiratory diseases (3.9 million). Chronic obstructive lung diseases (COPD) cause almost as many deaths as HIV/AIDS (2.7 million). The leading causes of DALY, on the other hand, include causes that are common at young ages [perinatal conditions (7.1% of global DALY), lower respiratory infections (6.7%), and diarrhoeal diseases (4.7%)] as well as depression (4.1%). Ischaemic heart disease and stroke rank sixth and seventh, retrospectively, as causes of global disease burden, followed by road traffic accidents, malaria and tuberculosis. Projections to 2030 indicate that, although these major vascular diseases will remain leading causes of global disease burden, with HIV/AIDS the leading cause, diarrhoeal diseases and lower respiratory infections will be outranked by COPD, in part reflecting the projected increases in death and disability from tobacco use.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Communicable Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Global Health*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Risk Factors