IMPACT

Meet The Doctor Aiming To 'Diagnose The World' Using Big, Big Data

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22:  Editors Note: This image may have been digitally manipulated for confidentiality to remove
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Editors Note: This image may have been digitally manipulated for confidentiality to remove any patient identidy data. A nurse checks the pulse of a patient at Birmingham Women's Hospital on January 22, 2015 in Birmingham, England. Birmingham Womens Hospital provides a range of health services to women and their families using the latest scientific procedures and care. Last year the maternity unit delivered over 8,000 babies, cared for 50,000 patients and performed over 3000 procedures in its state of the art theatres. The hospital is also home to world renowned research scientists, fertility clinic and the national sperm bank. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Like many fields, public health is in the midst of a data revolution: randomized control trials, pay-for-performance and value calculations, all based on data, are changing our ideas about what works and how to finance it.

The impact of these new methods to gather and evaluate data pales, however, next to the Global Burden of Disease Report, an attempt to understand what sickens us and kills us in every country in the world. The Global Burden of Disease study is a single scientific project on a scale with the moon landing or mapping the human genome. It has been going for a quarter century and involves hundreds, perhaps thousands, of scientists. In 2012, its most recent report, based on 2010 data, became the subject of the first issue that the medical journal The Lancet devoted to a single study.

This is big, big, big data. And it’s had an enormous impact.

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