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When the global burden of disease (GBD) methodology was introduced some 30 years ago, it represented a significant step toward providing systematic, comparable disease surveillance data on a worldwide scale. Since that time, the GBD approach has led to valuable insights about the relative importance of various risk factors and causes of death and how they have changed over time. As a result, data from GBD reports have become a common source of supporting data for the background sections of research papers, grant proposals and policy documents.
The three related papers on the burden of occupational disease and injury in this issue of the journal1–3 are likely to have similar impacts. These papers based on 2016 GBD data present a welcome updated estimate of the overall burden of illness and injury from occupational exposures1 and more detailed burden assessments for cancer2 and non-malignant, non-infectious respiratory diseases.3
A notable finding from this work is that an estimated 1.5 million deaths worldwide in 2016 were attributable to occupational exposures. While the corresponding attributable proportion, 2.8% of all deaths, may look like a small part of the public health picture, contributing, perhaps, to an impression that occupational exposures are not very important anymore, other GBD data4 indicate that, in fact, occupational exposures account for more deaths than a number of well-known risk factors that tend to receive far more attention from the public and policy makers, including low physical activity, low dietary fibre, high red and processed meat consumption, drug use and unsafe sex. Another finding of broad interest is the observation that while …
Contributors DL wrote the paper and revised it for submission.
Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.