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Murray supplies stats at Turner Society shindig

October 8, 2010
UW Medicine held its annual Turner Society reception at the UW Medicine research campus in South Lake Union yesterday.  The labs and offices, built around the former Washington Natural Gas “blue flame” building, provided a sleek and modern backdrop for this year’s gathering.
The keynote presentation was delivered by Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).  The IHME, a group for which we have expressed admiration before, is one of the many world-class organizations affiliated with the University of Washington.
Before filing into the auditorium for Dr. Murray’s talk, the donors in attendance got chatty over wine and hors d’oeuvres.  One of the fun things about these events, even more than the meatballs and roasted broccolini, is the chance to talk one-on-one with IHME-affiliated graduate students doing groundbreaking work in public health.  Students, each contributors to published academic papers, were deployed throughout the ground floor space with placards displaying the fruits of their research, ready to engage the gathered congregants in scholarly discourse.
Although the IHME’s mission is to improve the health of the world’s populations, Dr. Murray’s lecture addressed mortality here at home, in the United States, but did so from a global perspective.

Dr. Murray grapples with mortality as the clock ticks, quite literally, over his shoulder.

While the United States is number one in health spending, it is far down the list in life expectancy.  But within the United States, mortality varies wildly.

Dr. Murray's mortality map with the legend magnified.

Dr. Murray presented a fairly standard information graphic, shown above, illustrating male mortality by county, but with a twist.  Instead of expressing mortality as a rate or an age, he showed it as an equivalent nation in the world.  So, while many counties in the Pacific Northwest have mortality like Japan’s (dark blue) or Norway’s (blue), other counties, including a broad swath of the Deep South, have life expectancies closer to Vietnam’s (orange) or Iran’s (purple).

Mortality in the Pacific Northwest (top) and the Deep South (bottom).

Without question, there is room for dramatic improvement in mortality outcomes in the developing world.  But, it’s clear from Dr. Murray’s presentation that there are significant public health disparities to be addressed within the United States, as well.  And the solutions are not always obvious without methodical examination of data.
Mortality, after all, is a matter of life and death, and a topic worthy of research.  By supporting UW Medicine, members of the Turner Society are contributing to the IHME’s mission to provide the most rigorous public health information to policymakers around the world.
Update:  The IHME posted a compact and informative summary of the event, including poster presentations of IHME students and fellows, here.
One Comment leave one →
  1. Andrew permalink
    March 15, 2012 4:49 pm

    Leading indicator…

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