This report is the WHO's official record of data produced by its technical programmes and regional offices in close consultation with countries and in collaboration with researchers and development agencies. The WHO produces the statistics to provide an evidence base for strategies to improve global public health.

The report clearly shows that the global burden of disease is shifting from infectious diseases to non-communicable diseases, with chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke now being the chief causes of death globally. The shifting trends indicate that leading infectious diseases — diarrhoea, HIV, tuberculosis, neonatal infections and malaria — will become less important causes of death globally over the next 20 years.

The report documents in detail "the levels of mortality in children and adults, patterns of morbidity and burden of disease, prevalence of risk factors such as smoking and alcohol consumption, use of health care, availability of health care workers, and health care financing."