Measuring global health: new insights from the Global Burden of Disease 2015 Study

The perils of trials by checklist

The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) is the largest and most comprehensive effort to date to measure epidemiological levels and trends worldwide. The results show both major progress for example in combating infectious disease, and also significant gaps, for example in tackling causes of death and disability that could be reduced with increased coverage of drugs, vaccines, and greater access to primary health care.  The world continues to undergo an epidemiological transition from communicable to non-communicable diseases as the major contributors to burden of disease.  The GBD is a valuable resource for understanding trends and patterns of disease burden allowing users to better understand the disease profile of a given population, and thus understand what resources are needed to target and ultimately reduce the causes of death and disability in that population.

The latest update, GBD 2015, uses and expands upon the infrastructure of methodology, datasets, and tools that were presented in GBD 2010 and 2013, and presents estimates of all-cause mortality, deaths by cause, years of life lost, years lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life years by geography, age, and sex from 1990 to 2015.  This project draws upon the efforts of a multitude of people, including more than 1,700 experts from 124 countries.  The first results from GBD 2015 were published in July 2016 in Lancet HIV, and the remainder will be available in the coming months.  This presentation will highlight preliminary results and new insights from GBD 2015.


Christopher J.L. Murray, MD, DPhil, is a Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington and Institute Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) whose career has focused on improving health for everyone worldwide by improving health evidence. A physician and health economist, his work has led to the development of a range of new methods and empirical studies to strengthen health measurement, analyze the performance of public health and medical care systems, and assess the cost-effectiveness of health technologies. IHME provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates the strategies used to address them.

Dr. Murray is a founder of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) approach, a systematic effort to quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries, and risk factors by age, sex, and geography over time. After co-authoring the original GBD study in the early 1990s, he brought the GBD enterprise to IHME in 2007 and led the consortium of almost 500 researchers from 50 countries that produced the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study 2010 (GBD 2010). GBD now produces annual updates to its estimates. The first of these, GBD 2013, presents estimates of all-cause mortality, deaths by cause, years of life lost, years lived with disability, and disability-adjusted life years by country, age, and sex.

In his earlier work, Dr. Murray focused on tuberculosis control and the development, with Dr. Alan Lopez, of the GBD methods and applications. As part of this work, they developed a new metric to compare death and disability from various diseases and the contribution of risk factors to the overall burden of disease in developing and developed countries. This pioneering effort continues to be hailed as a major landmark in public health and an important foundation for policy formulation and priority setting.

From 1998 to 2003, Dr. Murray worked at the World Health Organization (WHO), where he served as the Executive Director of the Evidence and Information for Policy Cluster while Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland was Director-General. He went on to become Director of the Harvard Initiative for Global Health and the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, as well as the Richard Saltonstall Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, from 2003 until 2007.

Dr. Murray has authored or edited 15 books, many book chapters, and more than 300 journal articles in internationally peer-reviewed publications. He and IHME were the subjects of Epic Measures: One Doctor, Seven Billion Patients, which was published by Harper Wave in 2015. He holds Bachelor of Arts and Science degrees from Harvard University, a DPhil in International Health Economics from Oxford University, and a medical degree from Harvard Medical School.