The world just got a health checkup, and it is clear that there are more problems than what meets the eye. Because of well-intentioned but limited programs such as the Millennium Development Goals, the public has become aware of some of the challenges facing our world. But thanks to the Global Burden of Disease study, completed by Chris Murray and the IHME, we now have a more thorough idea of what is really ailing the world. Due to new types of data collection, comprehensive data analysis, and the introduction of the DALY System, the IHME has produced a list of the top ten causes of total healthy years lost.
The DALY system works by adding the number of years lost to an early death to the number of years lost to disability. To determine the number of years lost to early death (YLL), the number of years lived is subtracted from the ideal life span of the country. The years lost to disability are determined by multiplying the number of years lived with the disability by a disability weight. This weight is a number between 0 and 1 that represents how much healthy life the person loses each year to disability (YLD).
While this system has flaws, it is revolutionary because it changes the way we view world health. Yes, it is problematic to assign one value to all individuals suffering from the same condition, especially because every person experiences their condition differently. Yes, every culture views disability in entirely different ways. Yet, previous health systems didn’t even bother to include disability in their health reports, so this system allows us to send resources to these sometimes crippling but not fatal conditions.
The IHME released the Global Burden of Disease Report in 2010 to show an accurate picture of the health problems and causes of death across the globe. The goal is to help as many people as possible by showing philanthropists and world aid organizations where to send resources and invest their money. If I could create a policy to fix the world’s health problems, I would begin by addressing the top ten health concerns, as determine by the IHME. This list is not a list of causes of death, but rather the conditions that produce the most DALYs and ultimately cost people healthy years of their lives.
- Ischemic Heart Disease
Many believe that noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, are primarily a concern of developed countries. It is more prevalent, accounting for 10.38% of DALYs in developed countries, and 5.35% of DALYs in developing countries, yet heart disease is a major disease that effects our aging population. As fewer children are dying prematurely, more adults are aging to develop various health problems, such as heart disease. To combat this, individuals in developing countries need quick access to hospitals, heart medication, and trained doctors. People around the world need to eat a more balanced diet as a preventative measure. Education programs should be incorporated into public schools and introduced every where possible.
- Lower Respiratory Infections
Lower Respiratory Infections encompass pneumonia, bronchitis, and sometimes influenza. In order to remedy this, antibiotics must be made available. As a preventative measure, it would be more cost effective and beneficial to continue to invest in vaccines for conditions such as the flu and whooping cough to prevent infection in the first place.
A stroke occurs when brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die. Many risk factors of stroke are also risk factors of many conditions. These treatable risk factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, diabetes, cholesterol imbalances, and physical inactivity and obesity. Acting upon these health factors would greatly improve overall health. These symptoms would also be reduced by a balanced diet, and access to medical professionals. Once a stroke has occurred, blood flow must be returned to the brain. For this reason, it is imperative that the victim can get to a hospital with trained doctors so that as much damage as possible could be prevented.
- Diarrheal Diseases
Diarrheal Diseases are typically caused by an infection in the intestinal track, malnutrition, contaminated water, or other factors associated with poor hygiene. These diseases cause severe dehydration and loss of electrolytes. Treatment for this costs less than a dollar and comes in the form of Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) to rehydrate the individual. My prescription to avoid these includes putting resources into the sanitation of drinking water, educational programs to teach women to breast feed their babies, as well as supplying resources to end malnutrition. It causes approximately 8% of deaths of children under 5, with the number of deaths decreasing as individuals get older.
This disease is one of the most known of the last few decades. Millions of dollars have been spent on treatment, yet the number of deaths have increased 5.41% from 1990 to 2013. While it is true that there is no cure, the 2011 World AIDS Report claimed that more people are living longer with the disease. Even though the disease is not the number one cause of life lost, contributions to relief and research must continue and increase. It is because of studies like the IHME Global Burden that we can see if current efforts are working and what else has to be done. I would suggest funding towards research because, once cures are found, deaths can finally begin to decrease.
While these are not the only diseases to be treated, there are many over arching actions that can be taken to improve quality of life. Some overlooked solutions include educational programs about specific diseases, encouraging a balanced diet, and educating women. Women with an education have the opportunity for a better lifestyle, and they and their children are often healthier. Providing clean drinking water, vaccines, and antibiotics are imperative to prevent premature deaths. Importantly, major infrastructure changes need to be made to allow all people access to hospitals with trained medical professionals and health equipment. If these actions are implemented, the world has the potential to be a much healthier place.