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Systematic review of evidence on public health in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
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  • Published on:
    Perspectives from On the Ground in the DPRK
    • Ye jin Kang, Director Engage Korea
    • Other Contributors:
      • Jerome Sauvage, Former UN Resident Coordinator in the DPRK

    We read this piece about public health in DPRK with interest, as it will surely expedite understanding of public health about the DPRK among the public. We offer our perspectives about some conclusions based on a viewpoint developed from firsthand experience in the DPRK working for the United Nations, and another viewpoint developed from having worked with multiple NGOs who have spent decades in the country.

    We write this letter, not to point out limitations, but to advocate for a stronger appreciation of the data that already exists through an interdisciplinary and culturally sensitive lens. DPRK is an often misunderstood and unique political context, and the authors have created value by listing some publicly available articles in one source. Unlike conventional systematic reviews that analyzes the data within papers, this review builds an argument based on the number of publications in a select number of broad categories. While they argue this was made necessary by the heterogeneity of articles, the comparison between publications, DALYs, and research priorities would have been improved if each of these variables had been deconstructed by even some basic measures. For example, the publications could have been broken down by sample size, gender, or rural versus the urban area of Pyongyang. Surveys from the UN show that regions in the DPRK are very different. A National TB Prevalence Survey from 2015-2016 showed that TB prevalence in rural areas is 1.14 times that...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.