Washington, Apr 6: A new analysis of nearly 4 million scientific articles finds that research is disproportionately focused on diseases that primarily afflict wealthy countries.
It shows that less research attention is given to diseases of the developing world, increasing global health disparities.
“Our study demonstrates that health research follows the market, but likely not just because of the market,” lead author James Evans, associate professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, director of the Knowledge Lab and senior fellow of the Computation Institute said.
“Health researchers are sensitive to problems they are treating, to problems around them, to Grandma’s problems. Countries want to fund research that burdens their populations. Where this leads to inequality in health knowledge is that the disease burden of rich and poor countries are different, and that rich countries obviously produce much, much more research,” he said.
To conduct this analysis, Evans and co-authors Jae-Mahn Shim of the University of Seoul and John P. A. Ioannidis of Stanford University drew upon data from the World Health Organization and MEDLINE, the National Library of Medicine’s database of biomedical journal articles.
The researchers measured the global disease burden-the number of healthy life years lost to disease or disability-of 111 medical conditions, and statistically measured the relationship between each disease’s burden and the number of research articles that studied the disease.
The researchers conclude that the world’s poor are in “double jeopardy”-experiencing the highest health burden from diseases that are studied the least.
To close this gap, the authors suggest a new strategy for international health efforts. In addition to the current mission of spreading the medical advances and technology of the developed world to lower-income areas, the authors suggest that greater investment should be made to boost scientific research within poorer countries.
More distributed research would increase the amount of studies on underserved diseases such as malaria, tetanus, and vitamin deficiencies, and allow scientists to study these diseases in the environment and population where they are most prevalent.
The study is published in PLoS ONE. (ANI)