First meeting of Europe’s new burden of disease network

20–21 September 2016, London, United Kingdom

WHO/Europe has organized the first meeting of a new network devoted to burden of disease. The meeting is co-hosted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (United States of America) and Public Health England. It will bring together experts on burden of disease from 10 countries in the WHO European Region.

The burden of disease approach brings together measures of mortality, morbidity and disability in order to analyse the effect of disease on populations. Whereas often public health is strongly focused on causes of death, a burden of disease approach is more comprehensive and real-life. It examines the effects of disease and disability in terms of disability-adjusted-life-years, which reveal the effects of disease on an individual’s life, taking into account his or her age. This places disability at the centre of well-being and life expectancy considerations, and also makes it possible to examine the economic impact of disease. WHO has been a strong advocate of this approach since the 1990s.

Burden of disease methodology is complex and is used in variable ways, which can lead to difficulties in comparing studies and may affect the quality of conclusions drawn. The WHO network, which is part of the European Health Information Initiative, aims to harmonize burden of disease methodology across countries and enable meaningful knowledge exchange.