BSc(Hons.) (UWA); MS (Purdue); PhD (ANU)



Demography
2020

Professor Lopez’ scientific contributions have focused around strengthening the evidence base for health policy through the development and application of demographic and epidemiological methods. His primary impact has been through the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) Study, which he co-founded with Prof Christopher Murray in 1990. 

The GBD is an ongoing effort involving more than 5000 collaborators worldwide to quantify the impact, and measure the comparative importance of over 350 diseases and injuries, and 87 risk factors worldwide. The methods pioneered by Murray and Lopez have been adopted by over 50 countries, including Australia, to understand the comparative importance of major causes of death and disability in populations, and how they are changing. Countries have used this information to inform health policy discussions, determine health priorities and emerging challenges, assess health system performance, identify key health research priorities, and as an input into health resource allocation debates. Major global health donors such as the Gates Foundation rely on the GBD’s comparable assessments of health problems worldwide to determine priorities for investment, and organisations such as the World Health Organisation have used the findings of the GBD Study to place greater emphasis on specific disease control programs, particular non-communicable diseases, injuries and mental health.

Professor Lopez’ work with Sir Richard Peto on the global tobacco epidemic, highlighting the enormous, and growing disease burden attributable to tobacco in large developing populations such as China, has provided the scientific basis for widespread national and international policy and program action to control tobacco use and was instrumental in the establishment of WHO’s Tobacco Control Initiative and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

More recently, he has led research into the role of obesity in the stagnation of life expectancy currently observed in Australia and other countries, documenting widening socioeconomic differentials in mortality from major vascular diseases. His research into innovative and cost-effective verbal autopsy methods for poorer populations to apply to collect information on leading causes of death is being used by countries and development partners in the region to strengthen their knowledge about disease control priorities, and to better assess the impact of non-communicable diseases on population health and survival. These methods, as well as the tools and guidelines he has developed to improve the quality of mortality information available for countries and the development community alike, have underpinned the resurgence of interest by global and regional partners - including the United Nations, the World Bank and WHO, as well as philanthropic bodies- in vital registration of births, deaths and causes of death.

His work on measuring the burden of disease and injury internationally has led to immediate policy responses by government; for example, burden of disease research in Vietnam led directly to legislation requiring helmets for all motorcyclists. His leadership in developing and implementing methods to rapidly and cost-effectively reduce ignorance about who dies of what in developing countries has led directly to substantial and ongoing research funding support from the Bloomberg Foundation for improving health data systems in developing countries.

Melbourne Laureate Professor & Rowden-White Chair of Global Health and Burden of Disease Measurement; Director, Global Burden of Disease Group, University of Melbourne

Honorary Fellow of the Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (Hon FAFPHM)

Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (FAHMS)

Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia (FASSA)

Companion of the Order of Australia (AC)


1. Adair T, Lopez AD. 2020. Widening inequalities in premature mortality in Australia, 2006-16. Australian Population Studies, 4:37-56.

2. Murray CJL, …, Lopez AD, Vos T, Lim SS. 2020. Five insights from the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Lancet, 396: 1135-59.

3. Lopez AD & Adair T. 2019. Is the long-term decline in cardiovascular disease mortality in high-income countries over? Evidence from national vital statistics. International Journal of Epidemiology 48(6):1815-1823.  

4. Banks E, Joshy G, Korda RJ, Stavreski B, … Lopez AD. 2019. Tobacco smoking and risk of 36 cardiovascular disease subtypes: Fatal and non-fatal outcomes in a large prospective Australian study. BMC Medicine 17:128.

5. Adair T, Kippen R, Naghavi M, Lopez AD. 2019. The setting of the rising sun? A recent comparative history of life expectancy trends in Japan and Australia. PLoS One 14(3).