Mortality and morbidity worldwide, now and tomorrow: what is known?

  • Valleron A
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The knowledge of the global distribution of death, diseases and risk factors is important to make clear to the general public and to governments that health inequalities are incredibly high, at the dawn of this 21(st) century, and to help fight these. More than 20% of the 56 millions of deaths in 2001 were of children less than 5 years old. There are at least 1 million deaths per year from malaria. Diarrhoea kill more than 1.5 million, and measles more than half a million. The large majority of deaths by infectious diseases occur in underdeveloped countries. Moreover, chronic diseases kill an increasing number in underdeveloped countries, because populations are aging, because expansive health care which is needed to prevent and control these diseases is unavailable, and because the inhabitants are increasingly exposed to risk factors. In particular, smoking is increasing dramatically in underdeveloped countries as a result of the aggressive marketing of tobacco companies, the delay in implementing antismoking regulations, and because the public perception of the risk of smoking is still low. More than 4 million deaths per year are presently attributed to smoking, and reports forecast a death toll of 10 million in 2030. The WHO, Harvard University and the World Bank are at the origin of comprehensive data analyses on the "global burden of diseases" which help to identify health priorities. Unfortunately, global data are still scarce and of low quality, particularly in those underdeveloped countries where they would be most useful. Precise knowledge of the variations of mortality, morbidity and exposure to risk factors would be essential to monitor the improvements, or failures of health care progress. The optimal interpretation of the available data requires expertise in demography, epidemiology, statistics, and computer sciences, which are rarely found in this area. Thus, improvements in the collection of data and in the research effort in this field are necessary.




Valleron, A. J. (2008). Mortality and morbidity worldwide, now and tomorrow: what is known? Comptes Rendus - Biologies, 331(12), 991–1006.

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