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The shape of the global causes of death

Anna Barford and Danny Dorling

Author Affiliations

Social and Spatial Inequalities Group, Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

International Journal of Health Geographics 2007, 6:48  doi:10.1186/1476-072X-6-48

Published: 23 October 2007



World maps can provide an instant visual overview of the distribution of diseases and deaths.


There is a particular geography to each type of death: in some places many thousands of deaths are caused by a particular condition, whilst other equally populous areas have few to no deaths from the same cause.


Physicians and other health professionals often specialise in the specifics of causes, symptoms and effects. For some practitioners gaining a worldview of disease burden complements smaller scale medical knowledge of where and how people are affected by each condition. Maps can make health related information much more accessible to planners and the general public than can tables, text, or even graphs. Ten cartograms based on World Health Organisation Burden of Disease data are introduced here; alongside seven based on data from other sources. The Burden of Disease cartograms are the latest in a much larger collection of social, economic and health world maps.