If the idea of triaging patients at the emergency room seems complicated, consider how public health officials prioritize threats posed by organisms they can’t even see. Yet the microscopic microbes and viruses that sicken millions of people with infectious diseases still require a plan of attack. As in any medical scenario, resources are limited. And whether it’s due to low staff numbers, not enough research dollars, or too few hours in the day, someone ultimately has to make the call on where to funnel assets.
In 1994, the World Health Organization started measuring the cumulative healthy years lost to disease with Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALY). And each infectious disease is currently ranked according to its DALY score, providing a numbered system to help guide the public health community in crafting a suitable approach to managing the myriad of diseases they face.