September 13, 2017

How global health stands?

Measuring progress and projecting attainment on the basis of past trends of the health-related Sustainable Development Goals in 188 countries: an analysis from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) report shows in an aggregated way how is the world population health. It tries to give an index, and the summary would be:
The median health-related SDG index was 56·7 (IQR 31·9–66·8) in 2016 and country-level performance markedly varied, with Singapore (86·8, 95% uncertainty interval 84·6–88·9), Iceland (86·0, 84·1–87·6), and Sweden (85·6, 81·8–87·8) having the highest levels in 2016 and Afghanistan (10·9, 9·6–11·9), the Central African Republic (11·0, 8·8–13·8), and Somalia (11·3, 9·5–13·1) recording the lowest.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) were set by UN   and there are specific indicators for health. However the study takes into account 37 of the 50 indicators. I have explained before some technicalities about the use of DALYs for such studies. And you may know that I am concerned about its use. Today I would add a new concern, it is the projection to 2030 for all these indicators. In my opinions it is a useless effort. Nobody knows, nad using the past to project the future, it is exactly a guarantee of a mistake. However, The Lancet will publish your article.
Let's have alook at the expenditure side:
By comparing performance on the health-related SDG index in 2016 with total health expenditure and DAH (Development Assistace for Health) per capita received from 2010 to 2014,insights might be gleaned regarding the association between overall health funding and performance on the health-related SDG index and whether DAH is being directed toward those countries with the greatest need. Generally, total health expenditure is positively correlated with performance on the health-related SDG index; however, considerable variation exists at the same level of expenditure. For example, among countries with a health-related SDG index of 30 to 70, the association between total health expenditure per capita and performance varied massively, spanning at least a 7 times difference in spending with similar levels of performance on the health-related SDG index.
That's a lot of variation, it would require a closer look. And a clear prescription:
For countries that received DAH between 2010–14, some of the most pronounced differences in cumulative DAH per capita received in the 2016 index were in sub-Saharan Africa, with several countries in southern sub-Saharan Africa posting nearly 3 times more cumulative DAH per capita than a number of countries in central and western sub-Saharan Africa. Most notably, some of the poorest performers on the health-related SDG index, such as the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, and Niger, received relatively little DAH.
All in all, GBD is what we have, it has limitations but it allows to understand the situation. It is unnecessary to project the future, in my opinion. We have to work for the improvement of current population health.

PS. By the way, there is a ranking. You'll see that Spain has fallen from 7th to 23rd. Forget it. It is still worse but useless. The health variations inside Spain are so huge that the unit of analysis is wrong.