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Reliable and representative cause of death (COD) statistics are essential to inform public health policy, respond to emerging health needs, and document progress towards Sustainable Development Goals. However, less than one-third of deaths worldwide are assigned a cause.
The scale-up of tobacco control, especially after the adoption of the Framework Convention for Tobacco Control, is a major public health success story. Nonetheless, smoking remains a leading risk for early death and disability worldwide, and therefore continues to require sustained political commitment.
Pollution accounts for 22% of all deaths from cardiovascular disease, 26% of ischaemic heart disease deaths, 25% of stroke deaths, 53% of deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 40% of deaths from lung cancer.
Environmental quality has a profound effect on health and the burden of disease. In the United States, the environment-related burden of disease is increasingly dominated by chronic diseases. At the local level, public health practitioners realize that many policy decisions affecting environmental quality and health transcend the authorities of traditional health department programs.
Every year, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs)—mainly heart and lung disease, cancer, and diabetes—kill 41 million people globally. Together, NCDs are the leading cause of death and disease in the world and, when governments take action, they are preventable. But one risk factor, air pollution, is largely ignored by the global health community.
There is considerable value in exploring whether and how a limited set of common health metrics, such as the ones presented in this supplement, can produce valid and reliable estimates of impact for global health and family planning.
The impetus and opportunities for improving birth, death, and cause of death data have never been more propitious. Renewed country commitment to strengthen civil registration systems is clearly evident, supported by nascent regional coalitions of technical and development organisations.
Many African countries have extremely low ratios of physicians to population, and there are very, very few specialists. This leaves most patients without access to specialised care, and importantly also leaves many countries with insufficient expertise to properly evaluate the burden of illness and the needs of the population overall.