1990 saw the first major effort to estimate the main causes of illness and the biggest killer diseases in different countries. The data are important for public-health officials to allocate their resources wisely but also for feeding into estimates to plan for the future. Importantly, these need to be regularly updated to ensure that health programmes are still going in the right direction. This paper updates the 1990 study and offer predictions up to 2030.

The most forceful change in disease trends is in developing countries, with the proportion of people affected by non-communicable diseases set to increase. Proportionally, the number of people with infectious diseases is set to fall, though not when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

Because the authors also rely on predicting socio-economic development trends, they created best-case and worst-case scenarios for economic growth. In the pessimistic scenario, by 2030, the three leading causes of illness will be HIV/AIDS, depression, and ischaemic heart disease; in the optimistic scenario, road-traffic accidents will replace heart disease as the third leading cause.