Monday, 25 November 2013

The most important infographic in global health

Find the original source on wired.com here

This is the most important infographic and image in global health right now.

I usually do not write commentary on this blog, preferring to just reblog.  However, this image is hugely important.  Other people have found this image, including Bill Gates's twitter feed.  Which is unlikely to have been sent by him, and largely misses the importance of this image.

The value of DALYs, which this infographic is based on, is that it seeks to measure the loss of life years across all human beings (humanity) due to premature death and morbidity.  It has many controversial aspects that are still open for debate, and it is often used in cost-effective analysis which is also questionable.  However, the really exciting thing about DALYs, and the important aspect of the work of the Institute of Health Metrics at the University of Washington, is that they make concrete the amorphous notion of suffering of the global poor/third world/ global health.  If want to know the GDP of a country, there are measurements that all feed into one number.  If you want to know a nation's debt, there is a number.  But if you wanted to know what a country's health looks like, or the health of all human beings in the world, there was no number, no picture.

This is the first image that I have seen that truly makes concrete how much of human lives are lost because of premature mortality and morbidity.  It also identifies the causes.  And, now, we can start a more informed global public discussion about what are the causes, how much will healthcare solve this problem, and how much do we have to go beyond healthcare and health systems to reduce this loss of human life years.  Once you understand that a preventable loss of a year of life is the preventable loss of one human being's ability to live a life they would like, the question of justice comes to the forefront.

Other people just see a list of diseases and lack of healthcare.  That is a real shame.


Want to Save Lives? You Need a Map of What’s Doing Us In

  • BY LEE SIMMONS
  • 9:30 AM
If sorrow were a landscape, here’s how it would look from a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet. This graphic maps the global cost of early mortality—some 1.7 billionyears of human life forfeited annually—sorted by cause of death. That’s 1.7 billion years of harvests and weddings, of factory work and music lessons and novels and new ideas that were supposed to happen and now won’t.
Infographic by Thomas Porostocky  |  Source: Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
And get this: Worldwide, about 40 percent of that toll results from disorders (shown in yellow above) that could be avoided with basic medications, clean water, and neonatal care. As you read this, 3,000 young kids are dying from diarrhea that a few zinc tablets might have stopped. Cost: 38 cents per life.
You might wish you hadn’t read that. But it’s the kind of insight that policymakers and NGOs need in order to focus health resources where they can do the most good. That’s why the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the Univer­sity of Washington created the massive database on which this graphic is based. Known as the Global Burden of Disease, it quantifies the incidence and impact of every conceiv­able illness and injury. Want to see your own odds of dying from gunshot or animal attack? You can go to the GBD Compare website and find out.
But IHME doesn’t just tally up death rates, it estimates the years of life lost (YLLs) from all those deaths: A fatal pneumonia infection at age 3 erases many more future birthdays than a heart attack at 80. Adding in years lived with disability, the database provides the most comprehensive measure we have of the burden of disease, in terms of lost human potential. It’s not a pretty picture.
Luckily, policymakers are paying attention. Well-targeted campaigns are reducing mortality from infectious diseases and birth complications throughout the world (as shown by the light shading in the picture above). While more than a million people still die of malaria each year, mostly children in sub-Saharan Africa, that number is down more than 20 percent since 2005.
These are just a few of the insights offered by GBD Compare. The interactive
visualization tool lets you drill down on that global map to compare regions and countries, spot trends, or slice the data by demographic groups. And because the data is structured hierarchically, you can set the resolution to zoom in for more detail or zoom out for big-picture comparisons. The basic inter­face is easy to use, but there’s a helpful video tutorial if you want to dig deeper into the toolbox.
Here are are few screenshots from the website itself. Don’t be thrown by the different color scheme; the “tree map” layout is basically the same as in the artist’s rendering above. The labels are a bit cryptic here, but if you visit the site you can run your cursor over the map to see full descriptive info for every tile.

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