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J Public Health Policy. 2013 Aug;34(3):439-46. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2013.22. Epub 2013 May 30.

Using disability-adjusted life years to set health-based targets: a novel use of an established burden of disease metric.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, The Alfred Centre, 99 Commercial Road, Melbourne VIC3004, Australia.


Following the 1990 Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) have been used widely to quantify the population health burden of diseases and to prioritise and evaluate the impact of specific public health interventions. In the context of the recent release of the 2010 GBD study, we explore the novel use of DALYS to determine health-based targets (HBTs). As with the more traditional use of DALYs, the main advantage of using DALYs as HBTs is the ability to account for differential disease severity, identify the most appropriate public health interventions, and measure the positive and negative outcomes of these interventions. Australia is currently considering adopting DALYs for setting HBTs for drinking water quality, as recommended by the WHO. Adoption of DALY HBTs could be relevant in other areas, including air quality, food safety, health care-associated infections, and surgical complications.

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