Skip to main content

Connecting the Dots: The State of U.S. Health, 1990-2010

Posted on by Dr. Francis Collins

Caption: Adapted from Figure 2, The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. US Burden of Disease Collaborators. JAMA. 2013 Aug 14;310(6):591-608. 

Kudos to the U.S. Burden of Disease Collaborators and their recent report on the state of U.S. health from 1990 to 2010. This team, supported by NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, documented how the incidence of various diseases and injuries has changed over the past two decades in terms of toll they take on Americans’ health and well being. That toll is measured in something called disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), which amounts to the sum of years of life lost due to premature death and years lived with disability.

If you trace the lines above, it’s quite clear that since 1990, we’ve made tremendous progress in some areas, such as infectious diseases. Most dramatically, HIV/AIDS fell from a #11 ranking to #33—reflecting the phenomenal success of antiretroviral drugs and giving additional hope to researchers who continue to work towards an AIDS-free generation.

Still, for many other diseases, especially those related to aging, the burden is increasing. For example, Alzheimer’s disease jumped from #25 to #12 and is likely to continue rising as the Baby Boomer generation grows older—unless we invest aggressively in research aimed at finding new strategies for treatment and prevention.

Take a close look at these trends and consider the implications for U.S. health. Whether your interests lie in mental health or cancer prevention, birth defects or low back pain, substance abuse or traffic safety, I think you’ll find plenty to think about.

NIH support: Office of Intramural Research; National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences


  • sahab says:

    2010 rank orders #32 and 33 should be # 31 and 32, respectively.

  • JackieB says:

    What amazes me is the fact that with all the advertisement against cigarette smoking, lung cancer is still a major problem. I hope with the new crowdfunding revolution, people will be able to come up with new ideas and revolutionary products to combat these killer diseases. Obviously, advertisement alone is not the solution.

  • rhoda e says:

    Drug use and the [low] cure rate due to a lack of facilities, except for jail, are still major health problems in this country!!

  • bharkavu says:

    Thank you for the valuable information on the blog.
    I am not an expert in blog writing, but I am reading your content slightly, increasing my confidence in how to give the information properly. Your presentation was also good, and I understood the information easily.

Leave a Comment