UKZN Academic Involved in International Global Burden of Disease Study
UKZN academic Professor Ben Sartorious contributed to a global study which found that despite a “triad of troubles” in areas of obesity, violence, and mental illness, more lives had been saved throughout the world in the past decade than in the previous comparable period.
Sartorious of the College of Health Sciences was a co-author in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project which produced six articles in a special series in The Lancet journal this year.
As a member of the GBD 30-person scientific council he was intimately involved in the annual project - the world’s largest scientific collaboration study on population health - which revealed new trends in illnesses, deaths, and risk factors leading to poor health.
The study found that countries have saved more lives over the past decade than previously, especially among children under the age of five, but persistent health problems, such as obesity, conflict, and mental illness, comprised a “triad of troubles”, preventing people from living long, healthy lives.
‘Death is a powerful motivator, both for individuals and for countries, to address diseases that have been killing us at high rates,’ said Dr Christopher Murray, Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
‘But we have been much less motivated to address issues leading to illnesses with obesity, conflict, mental illness and substance use disorders all posing a stubborn and persistent barrier to active and vigorous lifestyles,’ said Murray.
The study found that since 2006, substantial progress had been made in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions. Leading drivers of the overall disease burden such as lower respiratory infections, diarrhoea, neonatal preterm birth, HIV/AIDS, and malaria, had all declined by 30% or more, in just one decade.
Researchers attributed this to improvements in the educational levels of mothers, rising per capita incomes, declining levels of fertility, increased vaccination programmes, mass distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, improved water and sanitation, and a wide variety of other health programmes.
The global initiative used data from more than 190 countries.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Rob Slotow, congratulated Sartorious on his involvement in the GBD, ‘Brilliant, well done on flying the flag of quality high.’
Dean and Head of school of Nursing and Public Health, Professor Busi Ncama commended Sartorious saying: ‘Congratulations, you are really flying the UKZN flag high.’
Words by: Nombuso Dlamini