Data from OpenAQ inform health policy and practice through the Global Burden of Disease report

3 min readJun 3, 2024


An OpenAQ Impact Story

By Colleen Marciel F. Rosales, Ph.D., and Jason Marte

Every human being deserves the right to live a long, healthy life, but major disparities in health outcomes persist across the globe that prevent us from achieving this ideal. Health practitioners and policymakers need accurate, reliable, and precise information on health trends and challenges to improve health systems and combat health disparities. This crucial data is provided by the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study which is the largest, most detailed and comprehensive study on worldwide trends in global health.

The GBD is led by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), housed at the University of Washington School of Medicine. Developed by a large, collaborative network of researchers with expertise in demography, epidemiology, health policy, and medicine, this systematic review quantifies the comparative magnitude of health loss that can result in premature death and disability. Released in May 2024, the GBD 2021 report identifies 369 diseases and injuries and 87 risk factors in 204 countries and territories and 811 additional subnational locations. Risk factors discussed in the report include environmental and occupational risks, behavioral risks, and metabolic risks. In addition, the report showcases the significant impact of large-scale events that caused spikes in mortality, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, on health outcomes and trends, emphasizing the need for public health strategies.

One environmental risk factor considered in the GBD is air pollution, including ambient and household particulate matter (PM) pollution, as well as ambient ozone pollution. OpenAQ has served as a key data source for information on PM2.5, PM10 and NO2. In 2021, OpenAQ contributed annual average concentrations for select reference grade stations worldwide.

Ambient particulate matter pollution was a leading risk factor for disease burden in 2021. Image from IHME:

Many free, open-access, high-grade research and high-profile reports–that ultimately inform policy and practice–are produced from the GBD reports, such as:

The most recent GBD estimates, incorporating data through 2021, were released in May 2024 and can be found here. The Lancet also compiles publications about the GBD and provides them free of charge on the Lancet Global Burden of Disease Resource Center. More updates on the GBD can be found here:

OpenAQ is proud to be a source of data for the highly regarded GBD report. As a reliable source of historical and real-time global air quality data shared at a fine temporal scale, OpenAQ provides the evidence needed to successfully make the case for air pollution interventions that protect people’s health, especially the health of the world’s most vulnerable and impacted populations.

🔗 View and explore data on air pollution as a health risk and issue in the interactive GBD website here and explore other GBD data and tools here.

🔗 Download the 2021 GBD Report here: Global Burden of Disease 2021: Findings from the GBD 2021 Study




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