Documenting the Coming Singularity

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We're Living Longer, Dying Differently

The Economist - 12.15.12

“THIRD WORLD” is not a term much used today. Most developing countries, as they were once euphemistically known, really are now developing—and doing so fast. So it is not surprising their disease patterns are changing, too, just as happened in the rich world. Deaths from infectious disease are down. Rates of non-transmissible illness—often chronic and frequently the result of obesity (see special report) are rising. The panjandrums of global health are struggling to keep up.

A series of reports in this week’s Lancet, co-ordinated by Christopher Murray of the University of Washington, eloquently describes what is happening. Dr Murray and his colleagues looked at 291 sorts of disease and injury in almost every country in the world. They used death certificates, interviews, surveys, censuses, and records from hospitals and police stations to calculate life expectancy since 1970 and count the number of deaths by disease from 1990 to 2010. Most crucially, for 1990, 2005 and 2010 they tallied disability-adjusted life years, or DALYs (a measure of the years lost to ill-health, disability or early death).

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