''Death Maps'' Pinpoint Mortality Causes

Cause of death maps
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Often Preventable Deaths/Population

November 1, 2007Africa appears to swell like a balloon when the world is mapped according to how many people died in 2002 due to diseases and other conditions that are largely preventable (top).

The continent appears much smaller by contrast in a map that sizes the countries of the world according to their shares of the human population (bottom).

These are just some of over a hundred "cartograms" released on October 19 by Worldmapper, a collaborative project spearheaded by researchers at the University of Sheffield in England and the University of Michigan. The maps use 2002 data from the World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Burden of Disease project to put a geographic twist on cause-of-death statistics.

Of the roughly 57 million people who died in 2002, more than 18 million succumbed to communicable diseases, complications from childbirth, or nutritional deficiencies, according to WHO. Worldmapper labels these deaths as "often preventable" because the conditions could have been easily treated with modern medicine.

The situation is "characteristic of populations that have not gone through the epidemiological transition to high life expectancy with most disease concentrated in older years," Colin Douglas Mathers, the WHO official responsible for the Global Burden of Disease data, said via email.

"Such populations, typically in India and Africa, are characterized by high infant and child mortality, high maternal mortality, and high levels of infectious diseases."

—Victoria Jaggard


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—Maps ) 2006 SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan)
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