Burden of disease

Burden of disease:

The burden of disease is a measurement of the gap between a population’s current health and the optimal state where all people attain full life expectancy without suffering major ill-health.

Reference: Modified definition (WHO, 2000).

Burden of disease analysis enables decision makers to identify the most serious health problems facing a population. Loss of health in populations is measured in disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which is the sum of years of life lost due to premature death and years lived with disability. Burden of disease data provide a basis for determining the relative contribution of various risk factors to population health that can be used in health promotion priority setting. For instance, smoking, undernutrition and poor sanitation are related to a number of major causes of morbidity and mortality and therefore each is a potentially important focus for health promotion. In addition, burden of disease studies can reveal disparities in health within populations that indicate underlying social inequities that need to be addressed.

Source: WHO Health Promotion Glossary: new terms. Smith BJ, Tang KC, Nutbeam D. Health Promot Int. 2006 Dec;21(4):340-5.