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April 6, 2006

BEIJING, April 6, 2006 – A trio of new books from the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization outline a stark picture of the current and future state of global health—well over 1 billion people dying in coming decades of tobacco-related illnesses and preventable diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and cardiovascular disease. But the books also offer "best health buys" for developing countries—the most crucial, proven, and cost-effective health care investments for attacking these health crises.

Launched today in Beijing at a global health conference, the three books—written by the Disease Control Priorities Project (DCPP), a science, economics, and public health group—contain the best scientific research on a broad array of diseases and conditions.

"The World Bank strongly supports the rationale for the DCPP because it will help to improve the health of poor people in developing countries by boosting the quality of evidence-based decision making, and to make the most efficient use of scarce healthcare workers and budgets to better serve the poor and other vulnerable groups within communities," says Jean-Louis Sarbib, Senior Vice President of the World Bank's Human Development Network. "For health care to achieve the greatest return on investment, it needs to start with several key building blocks: policies that adapt to new information, and research and health systems that deliver. Individual health interventions and programs will be more effective with a strong health system that includes primary care as well as district and referral hospitals. I'm delighted to see issues addressed in this second edition of Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, which shares the latest state of our development and health knowledge so that people in all countries benefit from medical advances."

Nearly 500 epidemiologists, health economists, public health practitioners, and other experts reached consensus on key "best health buy" interventions such as the following:

Increasing tobacco taxes in developing countries could save hundreds of millions of lives. Smoking rates are accelerating in low- and middle-income countries, where 82 percent of tobacco users already live. DCPP recommends taxing tobacco products in low-income countries to increase consumer costs by 33 percent—a move that could save up to 65 million lives of those who smoked in 2000.

Aspirin and other inexpensive drugs to control high blood pressure and cholesterol could cut heart attack and stroke rates dramatically in poor countries. Cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death worldwide—including 27 percent of deaths in developing countries. DCPP finds that a cost-effective "polypill" containing a combination of drugs could reduce heart attacks, strokes, and CVD mortality rates by at least 25 percent.

Interventions as simple as teaching mothers how to keep newborns clean and warm could save millions of children's lives. More than 13 million children under age 5 die each year* in developing countries—with at least 70 percent of these deaths from preventable diseases. DCPP advocates a set of interventions to address these illnesses, including immunization campaigns against killers like measles and polio, educating mothers on newborn care, giving children and pregnant women essential nutrients, and ensuring access to family planning services to avoid high-risk pregnancies, which are linked to between 20 percent and 40 percent of all infant deaths.

Curtailing alcohol abuse and improving road safety could reduce traffic-related injuries, which kill over 1 million annually. DCPP details how to ensure safer driving through traffic law enforcement, road and vehicle improvements, and measures to cut alcohol and drug abuse—which are implicated in up to two-thirds of all developing country traffic fatalities. 

AIDS interventions must reach everyone but aggressively target those at risk. DCPP proposes attacking the spread of HIV through a coordinated program that includes promoting 100 percent condom use among populations at risk as well as antiretroviral therapy and breast-milk substitutes, both of which cut mother-to-child HIV transmission by as much as 67 percent.

The books and their companion website (www.dcp2.org) are designed specifically as resources for policymakers, health program managers, and donors. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries (Second Edition) features the "best health buys" and cost-effective priorities for action based on careful analysis of health systems, disease burdens, and the cost of prevention and treatment. Priorities in Health is a companion volume available in seven languages that synthesizes the project's main messages into a reference guide for policymakers. And Global Burden of Disease and Risk Factors provides a snapshot of the health conditions of mankind at the dawn of the 21st century.

Together, these books give developing countries the latest tools and evidence for allocating their health resources wisely, making the best policy choices, and effectively implementing new or refined health programs and practices. In a world where only 12 percent of global health spending occurs in low- and middle-income countries—which account for 92 percent of the global burden of disease—these volumes are an invaluable contribution toward worldwide well-being.

"Every day, policymakers have to make tough choices about how to allocate scarce resources for health," said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "The books released today will help ensure that these decisions are based on solid evidence. Investments in health can literally save millions of lives."

DCPP is a collaborative effort of the Fogarty International Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the World Bank, the World Health Organization, and the Population Reference Bureau and is supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Through collaboration with the National Library of Medicine of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, full book content is accessible electronically on the National Center for Biotechnology Information's Bookshelf website. For more information on the books or the project, visit our website at www.dcp2.org.


This press release was prepared by the Population Reference Bureau.

* Including stillbirths.

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