, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 9-21

Estimating the “avoidable” burden of disease by Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs)

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The World Bank's Global Burden of Disease Study pioneered the use of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs). In this paper we distinguish between the total and the “avoidable” burden of disease. We identify different ways of measuring DALYs: incidence‐based DALYs are appropriate where the means of reducing the burden of disease is by prevention; prevalence‐based DALYs are appropriate when a disease cannot be prevented but effective treatment is available. The methods of estimating each are explained and we describe how we have applied these methods to seven causes of death and disability in the South and West Region. We discuss the relevance of this work for monitoring the health of populations and deciding how best to use scarce resources to improve health.

This revised version was published online in July 2006 with corrections to the Cover Date.