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Public Health Rep. 2002 Mar-Apr; 117(2): 185–191.
PMCID: PMC1497415

Assessing the burden of disease and injury in Los Angeles County using disability-adjusted life years.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: This study was designed to assess the burden of disease and injury in the Los Angeles County population using Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), a composite measure of premature mortality and disability that equates to years of healthy life lost. METHODS: DALYs, stratified by gender and race/ethnicity, were calculated for 105 health conditions and aggregated groups of conditions for the Los Angeles County population for 1997. Years of Life Lost (YLLs) were calculated using 1997 county mortality statistics and published life tables. Years Lived with Disability (YLDs) were derived from age- and gender-specific disease incidence and disability data from the Global Burden of Disease Study. RESULTS: DALYs produced a substantially different ranking of disease and injury burden than did mortality rates alone. The leading five causes of DALYs for males in the county were ischemic heart disease, violence, alcohol dependence, drug overdose and other intoxications, and depression. For females, the leading five causes were ischemic heart disease, alcohol dependence, diabetes, depression, and osteoarthritis. Differences in the rank order were also observed by race/ethnicity. The age-adjusted rate of DALYs for all health conditions combined was highest in African Americans (190 per 1,000), followed by American Indians (149 per 1,000), whites (113 per 1,000), Latinos (94 per 1,000), and Asians/Pacific Islanders (77 per 1,000). CONCLUSIONS: The DALYs measure is a promising new tool to improve the capacity of local health departments and other health agencies to assess population health and establish an evidence base for public health decisions.

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