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What is burden of disease?

Burden of disease is a measure used to assess and compare the relative impact of different diseases and injuries on populations. It quantifies health loss due to disease and injury that remains after treatment, rehabilitation or prevention efforts of the health system and society generally.

One measure of burden of disease is disability-adjusted life years or DALYs, which estimate years of life lost due to premature death, as well as years of healthy life lost due to disability from disease and injury.

AIHW’s burden of disease project

The AIHW is undertaking a project to revise and update Australia’s burden of disease estimates, last updated in 2007. It builds on the AIHW’s previous burden of disease studies and disease monitoring work and aims to identify the extent and distribution of health problems in Australia and quantify the contribution of key health risks. The project will provide estimates of the burden of disease for all Australians and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The results, expected in late 2015, will provide information on the amount of ill health due to death and disability from a variety of diseases, injuries and health risks to help determine the total burden of disease in Australia.

Phase 1 will determine the most appropriate method for estimating the burden that selected injuries and diseases place on the Australian community, with particular consideration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. This will specifically consider the new Global Burden of Disease study recently published by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation and partners.

Phase 2 will update the Australian burden of disease estimates, and will include analysis on fatal burden, non-fatal burden, and attributable burden from various risk factors. Updated burden of disease estimates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be produced.

This study will contribute to population health monitoring, health policy development, health service planning and research. It will provide the foundation for further assessments, such as in relation to health interventions aiming to prevent or treat the condition, and health care expenditure.

Funding for the project has been provided by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency.

Further information

AIHW burden of disease publications