Skip to main content

Sheila Leatherman Contributes to National Academy of Sciences Report on Global Health Care

September 19, 2018
Gillings School of Global Public Health

Sheila Leatherman, professor of health policy and management in the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine study committee charged with looking at global issues related to quality of health care and identifying possible pathways for widespread improvement.

On Aug. 28, the academy released a report titled, “Crossing the Global Quality Chasm: Improving Health Care Worldwide.” The publication provides an assessment of the burden and consequences of poor-quality health care and offers system-wide solutions to facilitate improvements.

Substandard health care around the globe causes ongoing damage to human health. In low- and middle-income countries, between 5.7 and 8.4 million deaths occur each year from poor quality of care, which means that quality defects cause 10 to 15 percent of the total deaths in these countries. The resulting costs of lost productivity alone amount to between $1.4 and $1.6 trillion each year.

A move toward universal health coverage is the central theme of global health policy today, but the evidence is clear: Even if such a movement succeeds, billions of people will have access to care of such low quality that it will not help them—and indeed, often will harm them. Without deliberate, comprehensive efforts to improve the quality of health care globally, universal health care will be largely an empty vessel.

“To address these concerns, the report includes recommendations that outline priorities for advancing quality around the globe,” Leatherman said. “One key recommendation reinforces the call for countries to develop national quality strategies. Another draws attention to quality in extreme adversity settings, including fragile states, humanitarian crises, conflict-affected areas and complex emergencies.”

The second recommendation is especially important to Leatherman, who added: “Researchers here at UNC are working with the World Health Organization on a body of work that will help us understand the priorities, challenges and promising approaches to improving health care specifically in fragile states and humanitarian crises. ”

To read the full National Academies report or watch short videos summarizing its content, please visit

The original version of this article was published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

More News