Smith (Growing a Garden City, 2010) a freelance journalist who covers health and environmental issues for Discover, the Chicago Tribune and other leading publications, chronicles an ambitious project to collect comparative data on global health issues.
In 2013, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation—sponsored and funded by the Gates Foundation—issued its groundbreaking report on world health, The Global Burden of Disease, a “meticulous decades-long creation…measuring the impact of 235 causes of death, 289 diseases and injuries, and 67 risk factors for men and women in 20 age groups.” The author compares the study to the Human Genome Project in its scope and potential benefits, and he identifies the impacts of health issues and available treatments on the duration and quality of life. Smith profiles the vision of director Christopher Murray, a man with a powerful desire to revolutionize the treatment of health on a global scale. Murray’s passion began with summers spent assisting his parents in the operation of a mobile hospital in the African desert. Smith's formal education in health issues began in the 1980s, when he studied biology at Harvard and earned a medical degree. He also received a doctorate in international health economics from Oxford. In 1998, he became the director of a short-lived World Health Organization project to issue an independent, evidence-based report on world health, a report that was a predecessor of the 2013 study. Murray was struck by the conflicting data from international health agencies on global life expectancy, infant mortality, the incidence of chronic disease and more. The boy who had seen poverty firsthand in Africa became a man with a mission “to measure how we sicken and die in order to improve how we live.”
A fascinating account of a charismatic visionary who successfully battles the convoluted politics of international health bureaucracies.