Completeness and quality of low back pain prevalence data in the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017
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  • Published on:
    The COVID-19 pandemic as a watershed moment: the importance of improved monitoring of population health needs
    • Grant MA Wyper, Public Health Intelligence Adviser Public Health Scotland, Glasgow, UK
    • Other Contributors:
      • Diane L Stockton, Consultant in Public Health
      • Brecht Devleesschauwer, Epidemiologist
      • Robby De Pauw, Epidemiologist

    Tamrakar and colleagues have undertaken a welcome, and coherent, evaluation of the completeness and representativeness of prevalence inputs for low back pain used in the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2017 study [1]. These types of assessments are particularly important so that users are aware of the uncertainties at each stage of the process for estimating disability-adjusted life years – and even more so for low back pain, which is consistently found to be one of the leading causes of health losses worldwide. They can assist users in appraising modelled estimates in a way that can more readily be triangulated with country-level evidence.

    Issues of uncertainty and generalizability of modelled estimates mainly arise due to a paucity of data. From the perspective of burden of disease assessment this is common across many health conditions which are data sparse, and thus have to rely on modelled estimates on the occurrence and distribution of severity of cases [2]. In the case of low back pain this mainly arises because a large proportion of people do not routinely access care services to manage their symptoms, which is also common for other musculoskeletal disorders and headaches. In both the GBD and national burden of disease assessments, the reliance of secondary use of administrative data (e.g. hospital, prescriptions or GP consultation records) is not an ideal proxy.

    The public health monitoring of individual health conditions has reached a watershed mome...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.