Background: Continuing comprehensive assessment of population health gap is essential for effective health planning. This paper assessed changes in the magnitude and pattern of disease burden in Thailand between 1999 and 2004. It further drew lessons learned from applying the global burden of disease (GBD) methods to the Thai context for other developing country settings.
Methods: Multiple sources of mortality and morbidity data for both years were assessed and used to estimate Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) loss for 110 specific diseases and conditions relevant to the country's health problems. Causes of death from national vital registration were adjusted for misclassification from a verbal autopsy study.
Results: Between 1999 and 2004, DALYs loss per 1,000 population in 2004 slightly decreased in men but a minor increase in women was observed. HIV/AIDS maintained the highest burden for men in both 1999 and 2004 while in 2004, stroke took over the 1999 first rank of HIV/AIDS in women. Among the top twenty diseases, there was a slight increase of the proportion of non-communicable diseases and two out of three infectious diseases revealed a decrease burden except for lower respiratory tract infections.
Conclusion: The study highlights unique pattern of disease burden in Thailand whereby epidemiological transition have occurred as non-communicable diseases were on the rise but burden from HIV/AIDS resulting from the epidemic in the 1990s remains high and injuries show negligent change. Lessons point that assessing DALY over time critically requires continuing improvement in data sources particularly on cause of death statistics, institutional capacity and long term commitments.