UW hopes to advance IHME global health study findings

Christopher Murray, director of the UW Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), discusses IHME's groundbreaking research at a global health symposium. IHME Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors 2010 Studyprovided focused on major ailments and their causes around the world.

Photo by Alisa Reznick

The UW Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) brought groundbreaking findings about global health to the UW in a public symposium Monday.

IHME Director Christopher Murray delivered a presentation at the Magnuson Health Sciences Center about the findings of the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) Study 2010, a report of the causes of death and disability in 187 countries from 1990 to 2010.

Online tools contextualizing the study, which is the most comprehensive analysis of global health in the world, were released at a conference Tuesday at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The interactive online visualizations will allow people to assess global disease burden information from across the world.

Murray said that, in the future, he hopes there are annual — if not more frequent — updates to the GBD report. He also wants to be able to make GBD projections for 15 to 20 years in the future. He said such changes could help lead the future of health policy in a positive direction.

“We believe the science will be strengthened, the data will be strengthened, but also the interpretation of the policy views [from] the findings,” he said.

UW President Michael Young, UW Provost Ana Mari Cauce, UW Medicine CEO Paul Ramsey, and UW School of Public Health Dean Howard Frumkin discussed the importance of the GBD findings at Monday’s symposium.

Murray led the crowd through the interactive visualizations, comparing global-health levels and trends across different ages, sexes, and countries. He highlighted certain progress in health across the world. He also noted the importance of the GBD ability to identify certain risk factors for each country.

Murray said the power of the visualizations to convey the more than one billion GBD findings is extraordinary.

“It’s opened up a discussion of health already to audiences far beyond the traditional specialists in population health and public health,” he said. “It’s a way to both explore at the country level and get insights in ways that are actually pretty simple and intuitive about the differences  across countries.”

Peter Speyer, director of data development at IHME, helped create the interactive visualizations. He said they are a major contribution to the study because they create accessibility to anyone researching health and causes of death specific to countries.

“Creating the results is one thing and really important, but for enabling people around the world to actually use these results and form decisions, you need better vehicles than huge databases,” Speyer said. “These visualizations enable anyone from sophisticated researchers to someone who’s casually interested in global health to get an impression [of the results].”

Cauce said what impresses her most about the study is that the research was done at the UW and ensures that such research is an integral part of the UW’s educational mission.

“In a place like this, the line between what is research and what is education becomes blurred,” she said. “Here at the University of Washington, we make our local knowledge global.”

Reach reporter LaVendrick Smith at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @The_Vendrick

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