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[Viewpoint] Measuring global health: motivation and evolution of the Global Burden of Disease Study

People everywhere, but particularly those charged with improving the health of populations, want to know whether human beings are living longer and getting healthier. There is an inherent fascination with quantification of levels and patterns of disease, the emergence of new threats to health, and the comparative importance of various risk factors for the health of populations. Before the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study (GBD) was initiated, no comprehensive assessments of human health were done.