Co-sponsored by the Center for South Asia, Stanford University
Human life expectancy improved more in the last 50 years than in the preceding 5000 years. Much of this recent progress arose from declines in childhood mortality, and most of this decline was due to scientific knowledge and technologies (defined widely as drugs, diagnostics, policies, strategies, and epidemiological knowledge). The dominant challenge of the 21st century is to apply scientific knowledge to reduce premature adult mortality, in particular from vascular and neoplastic disease but also from persistent infectious disease such as malaria. Reliable quantification of the causes of death is a key starting point for control of adult diseases, as shown by the early results from India's Million Death Study. Specific global attention is required to tobacco, as on current patterns there will be 1 billion deaths from smoking in the 21st century, as opposed to "only" 100 million deaths from smoking in the 20th century. Scientific research on adult mortality, paired with specific action, might well halve premature adult mortality worldwide in the next few decades.
Professor Prabhat Jha has been a key figure in epidemiology and economics of global health for the past decade. He is the University of Toronto Endowed Professor in Disease Control and Canada Research Chair at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health, and the founding Director of the Centre for Global Health Research at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. Professor Jha is a lead investigator of the Million Death Study in India, which quantifies the causes of premature mortality in over 1 million homes from 1997-2014 and which examines the contribution of key risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, diet and environmental exposures. He is the author of several influential books on tobacco control, including two that helped enable a global treaty on tobacco control, now signed by over 160 countries.