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Pardee Center for International Futures

Patterns of Potential Human Progress, Vol. 3

Long-term forecasts of mortality and disease burden are essential for setting current and future health system priorities. Yet few forecasts cover a wide range of nations over a long span of time.

Even fewer situate changes into an integrated framework to account for the effects of variation in mortality on population size, population age structure and drivers of mortality—such as income.

The integrated health models incorporated into the International Futures (IFs) system and reported in the recent book Improving Global Health: Forecasting the Next 50 Years fill this gap.

We build on the work of the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project to produce long-term, integrated forecasts to the year 2100 and report our findings out to 2060.

We forecast continued global improvement in life expectancy, further convergence between the longest- and shortest-lived nations, and a dramatic shift from communicable to non-communicable diseases and injuries.

In spite of progress, the world is unlikely to achieve the key goals of the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health without intensified action. Our optimistic and pessimistic scenarios deviate considerably, with the former producing, in 2060, 39 million fewer deaths.

Our forward linkage model suggests that the low-mortality scenario would result in a 20 percent relative increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, despite 1 billion additional people. Southern Asia would experience the greatest relative mortality reduction with the greatest resulting benefit to GDP per capita.

Though a major advancement, the true value of IFs Health is for health policy planning and strategic assessment. With small but significant modifications, IFs can evaluate the costs and benefits of specific policy and risk factor scenarios in light of ongoing global shifts in health and its intersection with other areas of human progress.

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