Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more

Data on the Global Burden of Disease

Learn from the data on the global burden of disease.

In the last 200 years, there has been an increase in life expectancy, a halving of the proportion of the world’s population living in poverty, and a decrease in the number of deaths from natural disasters (Rosling et al. 2018). The resultant impact on health has been a change in the pattern of diseases.

200 years ago, communicable diseases were the main reason why people died. Now, mortality from NCDs is more prevalent in high-income countries, with low-income countries now suffering the double impact of high mortality rates of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. Despite this, the news on global health is encouraging and in the past 37 years, there has been a reduction in rates of communicable diseases and maternal, newborn, and nutritional deaths (GBD 2017).

Between 2000 and 2015 we have seen a five-year improvement in life expectancy with the average life expectancy reaching 71.4 years and a shift towards deaths in older age. However, this should not lead to complacency as in 2015, 16,000 children under the age of 5 died every day, of which 45% occurred in the first four weeks of life. 70% of all deaths are now due to NCDs including cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancers and diabetes, with 37% of deaths in low-income countries being attributable to NCDs. Communicable diseases are still prevalent in low-income countries, with children being particularly vulnerable (WHO 2018).

In order to make the best decisions we can about health and enable us to plan services, we need to collect, analyse and interpret data.

On a worldwide basis, the Global Burden of Disease Study is the most comprehensive project collecting a range of health and demographic data collected from surveys, censuses, vital statistics, and other health data. The Global Burden of Disease Study has been able to identify the risk factors associated with the highest numbers of deaths and these include high blood pressure, smoking, high body mass index, high fasting plasma glucose, diets high in sodium and low in fruit, ambient particulate matter, household air pollution from solid fuels, high total cholesterol and alcohol use.

Your Task

Explore the Global Burden of Disease data set and select your own country. From these data identify one issue that surprises you.

In the discussion let people know which country you have focused on, identify the issue that surprises you and explain why this surprises you.
Second, consider the risk factors associated with the highest number of deaths. Share your thoughts on how, as a nurse, you could support improvements to the public health of your population.

Don’t forget to look at other responses and respond to at least one other to help generate discussion.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you might wish to read the full texts in the References below.


GBD 2016 Causes of Death Collaborators (2017) ‘Global, Regional, and National Age-sex Specific Mortality for 264 Causes of Death, 1980–2016: A Systematic Analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016’. The Lancet. [online] available from [19 June 2018]

Rosling, H., Rosling, O., and Rosling Rönnlund, A. (2018) Factfulness: Ten Reasons we’re Wrong about the World – And Why Things are Better than You Think. London: Spectre

World Health Organization (2018) The Top 10 Causes of Death [online]. available from [19 June 2018]

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Public Health and Nursing: Drive Public Health Promotion

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now