No matter where they live, how much education they have, or what their incomes are, people have very similar perceptions on the impact of diseases and injuries.

This finding – counter to the prevailing belief that people throughout the world view different health conditions in very different ways depending on their culture or individual circumstances – is part of a collaborative project, the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010). GBD 2010, launched by Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, and 300 other institutions worldwide, is the single largest and most detailed scientific effort ever conducted to quantify levels and trends in health worldwide.

Two of the seven studies being published in a triple issue of The Lancet on Dec. 14, 2012 — the first time the journal has focused an entire issue on one study — were co-led by Joshua Salomon, professor of global health at HSPH. The first is a major innovation in measuring how health conditions are perceived by the public at large and accounting for these views in evaluating the public health impact of disease and injury. These assessments of the severity of different health outcomes are known as disability weights.

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