What We Don’t Know (A Lot)


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The big questions that medicine is still struggling to answer

NewCo Shift produces a number of Medium Premium series, articles created in conjunction with noted authors and journalists. One such series is What We Don’t Know, by Thomas Goetz. This series explores the reasons why the most basic problems in medicine are some of the hardest to solve. The first article in the series explores the reasons why we really don’t know how to count dead people.

In 2010, the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report put the number of annual global deaths caused by malaria at 655,000, but that number, however, turned out to be wrong. A correction by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation found that the actual number was closer to 1.2 million deaths. Goetz asked himself, how could the mortality estimate for malaria, a disease that gets a great amount of attention and resources, and a disease that has such long history and distinct pathology, be so wrong? And how was it possible to get the number right?

Read the first article here to find out why getting the numbers right is really hard to do, and why we must get it right in order to understand human health. The second in the series is due this week, so stay tuned!

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