media release

Study attributes half-million deaths to Iraqi war

October 15, 2013
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Contact:
Tim Takaro, SFU Health Sciences, 778.782.7186, ttakaro@sfu.ca   
Lindsay Galway, SFU Health Sciences, 778.782.9044, lpg@sfu.ca
Stephanie Chow, SFU media relations, 778.782.9543, scchow@sfu.ca

Two Simon Fraser University researchers have contributed to a U.S.-led study that reports approximately 500,000 deaths in Iraq are directly or indirectly linked to the war from 2003 through 2011.

SFU Health Sciences professor Tim Takaro and SFU doctoral student Lindsay Galway are among a dozen researchers from four institutions who collaborated on the study.

In the study, published in PLOS Medicine, researchers conducted a survey of 2,000 randomly selected households across Iraq in mid-2011 to ask about deaths in order to calculate the death rates for the periods before and after the invasion.

“We were really trying to improve on the methods employed from previous Iraq mortality studies to gain more rigorous results,” says Galway.

The methods in this study were more sophisticated than previously used methods, which were deemed controversial and criticized by scientists and politicians.

Methodological improvements included the sampling procedures—collecting more data, such as information about sibling deaths—and adjusting for the migration of an estimated two million Iraqis out of the country over the course of the war.

“It’s difficult to do research in conflict settings but we need to keep doing this kind of work to improve our methods and gain a better understanding of the public health consequences of armed conflict,” says Galway.

Takaro says this study is important because having high quality data on the human impact of war may influence policymakers’ decisions about going to war.

“There’s a challenge of gathering data and an importance to having it,” says Takaro, who earlier collaborated with some of the researchers on a study on childhood leukemia increases in Iraq. “If deaths are recorded and become a quantifiable cost of war, then perhaps we can avoid wars in the future.”

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.

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