Background: To support public health policy, information on the burden of disease is essential. In recent years, the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY) has emerged as the most important summary measure of public health. DALYs quantify the number of healthy life years lost due to morbidity and mortality, and thereby facilitate the comparison of the relative impact of diseases and risk factors and the monitoring of public health over time.
Discussion: Evidence on the disease burden in Belgium, expressed as DALYs, is available from international and national efforts. Non-communicable diseases and injuries dominate the overall disease burden, while dietary risks, tobacco smoking, and high body-mass index are the major risk factors for ill health. Notwithstanding these efforts, if DALYs were to be used for guiding health policy, a more systematic approach is required. By integrating DALYs in the current data generating systems, comparable estimates, rooted in recent local data, can be produced. This might however be hampered by several restrictions, such as limited harmonization, timeliness, inclusiveness and accessibility of current databases.
Summary: Routine quantification of disease burden in terms of DALYs would provide a significant added value to evidence-based public health policy in Belgium, although some hurdles need to be cleared.