The world health report

Chapter 4

Quantifying Selected Major Risks to Health

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In attempting to reduce risks to health and, in particular, to redress the imbalance that leaves the poor and the disadvantaged with the greatest burden of disease, the first steps are to quantify health risks and to assess the distribution of risk factors by poverty levels. The analysis in this report covers selected risk factors, grouped as follows: childhood and maternal undernutrition; other diet-related risk factors and physical inactivity; sexual and reproductive health; addictive substances; environmental risks; occupational risks; and other risks to health (including unsafe health care practices, and abuse and violence). These risk factors are responsible for a substantial proportion of the leading causes of death and disability. This chapter ranks them globally and within major world regions and goes on to estimate how much of the burden each of them causes is avoidable between now and the year 2020. The potential benefits are huge, but they will depend on effective and cost-effective interventions if they are to be realized.