Sunday, February 26, 2012

Independent Researchers Challenge Another WHO Report

Washington, DC, February 24 (C-FAM) A new study by an independent group of researchers shows that the World Health Organization (WHO) has significantly underestimated malaria mortality figures in its 2011 Malaria Report. This is another blow to the credibility of the top global health organization in just two years.

A paper published in The Lancet medical journal this month by researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle found that 1.238 million deaths worldwide were directly attributable to malaria – almost twice the 655,000 deaths reported by WHO.

The report also delivered surprising news about the real causes of global child mortality. Malaria mortality was 1.3 times more than the reported WHO figure for children younger than 5 years in Africa; 8.1 times higher for those aged 5 years or older in Africa and 1.8 times higher for all ages outside of Africa.  The IHME team estimated 24% of child deaths in Africa to be attributable to malaria compared with 16% quoted in the WHO report for 2008.

Compiling data from 105 countries using modern methodological tools, IHME found that malaria deaths in 2010 in individuals aged 5 years or older were 524,000 compared to the WHO figure of 91,000, almost 6 times higher. Overall, 433,000 more deaths in those aged 5 or above occurred due to malaria in 2010 than quoted by the WHO. The researchers say these numbers could be even higher if more corrections were made to misclassified data and if malaria was counted as an aggravating factor for other causes of death.

That malaria mortality has been underestimated has significant policy implications. It means that organizations like UNICEF should scale up their funds to child survival programs to reduce the large number of child deaths from malaria in Africa. It means that WHO and others should increase their engagement in malaria control and prevention programs. It also means that the UN agencies should pay much closer attention to their data collection and use.

This is not the first time that independent researchers acted as watchdogs on the UN’s use of poor statistics. Slightly more than a year ago, the same journal published a credible report by the same group of researchers exposing the inflated maternal mortality figures reported by UN agencies. The statistics used by the WHO and UNICEF were deemed erroneous and the methodology badly flawed. And yet such statistics have been cited by policy makers to push for more funding for reproductive health measures – including abortion – instead of mortality-reducing programs aimed at the main causes of maternal death.

In the past few years, independent monitoring of international bodies and the information they disseminate has discovered serious discrepancies. One of the most recent initiatives is the establishment of WECARE, the World Expert Consortium for Abortion Research and Education, bringing together credentialed scientists in the area of abortion-research to present objective information about health effects of abortion. Most recently, they have published a comprehensive critical analysis of a widely cited Guttmacher study claiming abortion is safer than childbirth.

Source: Friday Fax

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