The world should focus far more of its health efforts on preventive activities, say researchers from the World Health Organization’s Comparative Risk Assessment Collaborating Group. The group undertook the mammoth task of comprehensively reviewing data from published studies and other sources (eg, government reports and international databases) on 26 potentially modifiable risk factors for disease, splitting the entire world into 14 epidemiological regions based on geography and adult and child mortality. The contribution of each risk factor to mortality and disease burden (expressed as disability-adjusted life-years [DALY]) was calculated. Results differed with epidemiological area, but overall, the leading causes of global burden of disease were childhood and maternal underweight (9.5% of the total DALY), unsafe sex (6.3%), high blood pressure (4.4%), tobacco (4.1%) and alcohol (4%). The researchers said the contribution of these risk factors is much higher than has been previously thought, and targeting them will produce substantial health gains.
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