Author Discusses Resources that Aid Global Health Efforts
Jeremy Smith discussed his book, Epic Measures
The practice of clinical medicine can be boiled down to a simple maxim: "Diagnose, then prescribe." First assess what is causing the problem, and then determine how it can best be addressed.
In his book Epic Measures, journalist Jeremy Smith seeks to apply this principle to the population-level issues affecting global health. In a recent visit to Einstein at the invitation of the Global Health Center, Mr. Smith led a discussion among a group of students, clinicians, researchers and health policy specialists about the ways that we approach the diagnoses of global health problems.
He began by describing how the piecemeal accumulation of data, often around specific diseases such as tuberculosis, can result in inaccurate total numbers, since causes of death are often not straightforward or solely attributable to single factors. He noted that the presence of advocacy groups for different causes, while well-meaning, can sometimes result in a misallocation of resources toward conditions with the best "publicity."
Mr. Smith also discussed the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), a venture he described as "Google Earth for Health." The GBD is an international consortium consisting of over 1,000 scientists working in more than 100 countries, with the aim of generating systematic, objective data about the prevalence and impact of adverse health events among various populations.
Beyond an encyclopedic accrual of data, the GBD seeks to make its findings accessible and searchable among many parameters. Mr. Smith noted that the GBD's interactive website hosts a variety of tools and filters with which one can generate detailed representations of health problems, causes of mortality and disabilities, risk factors, life expectancies and health trends amongst various subsets of populations.
"The visual accessibility and user-friendliness of the site makes a wealth of global medical data easily perusable," he said. "And the long-term goal of this database is to encourage a more efficient and utilitarian allocation of resources to address health problems in specific at-risk populations. For example, the risk factors in HIV-infected young women in Uganda may be very different from those of middle-aged men in Bangladesh, and the approaches and programs dedicated to each of these groups should be designed with the highest potential impact."
"Mr. Smith's visit provided insights into an area of global health that is critical for establishing the most effective programs in resource-poor nations," noted Jill Raufman, program manager of Einstein's Global Health Center and director of medical student global health programs.
Posted on: Wednesday, July 29, 2015