New study examines progress in meeting international health goals

By Corinna Kaarlela

A new study co-authored by a UCSF resident physician and published this week examines why low-income countries are making poor progress in meeting international health goals.  Study researcher Sanjay Basu, MD, PhD, of the Department of Medicine at UCSF and Division of General Internal Medicine at San Francisco General Hospital, said findings highlight the importance of looking at the entire health experience of a family, rather than just one or a few diseases.
Appearing in the March 2, 2010 online edition of PLoS Medicine, the analysis focuses on three of the New Millennium Goals adopted in 2001 by 192 United Nation states:  to reduce child mortality rates by two thirds,  maternal mortality by three fourths, and halt and reverse spread of HIV, TB, and malaria by 2015. The study team found that less than half of the countries are on track to meet these goals.
Findings showed that the co-existence of epidemics of infectious disease and non-communicable disease represent an important and previously unappreciated source of difficulty for these countries in hitting the health targets, Basu said. 
“We found that income, health system infrastructure, and healthcare spending explained very little of the difference between countries that have made great progress and those that haven’t,” he added. “Rather, it seems that countries in which households face multiple chronic disease problems in the same community—such as existing burdens of HIV coupled with increasing burdens of diabetes and tobacco smoking—are being held back even when substantial money is being directed at one or a few of the key diseases country-wide.  This suggests that we need a broader set of interventions against the key environmental and social chronic disease risk factors that cause some communities to face simultaneous burdens of many illnesses.”
In addition to Basu, study co-authors are David Stuckler, of the University of Oxford, and Martin McKee, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Link to PLoS Medicine news release:

Link to paper: