Global health expert Dr Christopher Murray visits Melbourne

What are the world’s major health problems? How well is society addressing these problems? How do we best dedicate resources to maximise health improvement? These are the questions that have driven American physician and health economist Dr Christopher Murray since childhood when his family ran a hospital in Niger, Africa. Dr Murray provided some answers to these questions during his recent presentation at the University of Melbourne.

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Landmark Global Burden of Disease study
Regarded as one of the founders of modern population health measurement, Dr Murray’s work has helped shape public policy in countries around the world. In the early 1990, Dr Murray and the University of Melbourne’s Professor Alan Lopez devised the Global Burden of Disease study that quantified the health effects of more than 100 diseases and injuries for eight regions of the world, allowing for better informed, evidence-based public health decision making.

He went on to lead the landmark Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, a collaboration of 486 scientists from 302 institutions in 50 countries that has made a major contribution to present and future global health priorities.

Challenges ahead
Dr Murray is now the Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and Professor of Global Health at the University of Washington. Despite great progress in global health over recent years, he still sees huge challenges in collecting and evaluating abundant data and translating it into a roadmap that will ultimately result in people living longer, healthier lives.

During his presentation at the University of Melbourne, Dr Murray talked about his early interest in global health and how this led to his collaboration with Professor Lopez on the Global Burden of Disease study. He also discussed how the diseases and conditions they examined have developed over time in the countries involved.

Associate Professor Deirdre McLaughlin at the Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative (BD4H) said that the presentation provided a great background to the Melbourne team’s in-country work where they often see the disorders and diseases identified in the original study and how they impact quality-adjusted life year and disability-adjusted life year measures.

“The work Christopher and Alan did in the early 1990s underpins our interest in birth and death data registration in lower to middle-income countries. Once these countries have this accurate data, they can start public health interventions that will impact mortality and quality of life for the benefit of their populations,” said Professor McLaughlin.

The BD4H team is leading technical interventions in 14 countries, focusing on quality of mortality data, death registration systems, cause of death coding and registration, and the use of verbal autopsies to gather information where deaths occur in the community.