Handwashing practices added as new risk factor in latest Global Burden of Disease study

Global, regional, and national comparative risk assessment of 79 behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks or clusters of risks in 188 countries, 1990–2013: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. The Lancet, Sept 11, 2015.

GBD 2013 Risk Factors Collaborators

The Global Burden of Disease, Injuries, and Risk Factor study 2013 (GBD 2013) is the first of a series of annual updates of the GBD. Risk factor quantifi cation, particularly of modifi able risk factors, can help to identify emerging threats to population health and opportunities for prevention. The GBD 2013 provides a timely opportunity to update the comparative risk assessment with new data for exposure, relative risks, and evidence on the appropriate counterfactual risk distribution.

All risks combined account for 57·2% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 55·8–58·5) of deaths and 41·6% (40·1–43·0) of DALYs. Risks quantified account for 87·9% (86·5−89·3) of cardiovascular disease DALYs, ranging to a low of 0% for neonatal disorders and neglected tropical diseases and malaria. In terms of global DALYs in 2013, six risks or clusters of risks each caused more than 5% of DALYs: dietary risks accounting for 11·3 million deaths and 241·4 million DALYs, high systolic blood pressure for 10·4 million deaths and 208·1 million DALYs, child and maternal malnutrition for 1·7 million deaths and 176·9 million DALYs, tobacco smoke for 6·1 million deaths and 143·5 million DALYs, air pollution for 5·5 million deaths and 141·5 million DALYs, and high BMI for 4·4 million deaths and 134·0 million DALYs.

Risk factor patterns vary across regions and countries and with time. In sub-Saharan Africa, the leading risk factors are child and maternal malnutrition, unsafe sex, and unsafe water, sanitation, and handwashing.

Behavioural, environmental and occupational, and metabolic risks can explain half of global mortality and more than one-third of global DALYs providing many opportunities for prevention. Of the larger risks, the attributable burden of high BMI has increased in the past 23 years. In view of the prominence of behavioural risk factors, behavioural and social science research on interventions for these risks should be strengthened. Many prevention and primary care policy options are available now to act on key risks.

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