The past two decades have seen considerable achievements in population health. Indeed, as revealed by the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010) [1], life expectancy for men and women has increased, whilst the public health impact of many communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS and malaria, has declined. Consequently, compared to the situation in 1990, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are now the predominant public health issue in most regions of the world and a higher proportion of deaths occur in people aged 70 years and above. Infant and child mortality, on the other hand, has declined [1, 2]. It must be noted, however, that these global estimates hide local and national idiosyncrasies and trends. Hence, there is a need to deepen our understanding of rates and trends of diseases, injuries and risk factors at local, national and regional levels. In turn, such an understanding will shape current and future national health priorities, and should thus set the terms for social and health policy and planning. Another issue that must be recognized is health inequalities, particularly the gap between the rich and the poor, which continues to widen in many parts of the industrialized and developing world [3-5]. Finally, diseases, disabling conditions and risks that primarily affect the ‘bottom-billion’ warrant special attention and concerted action. Neglecting these issues will hamper progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [6-8] and jeopardize the post-2015 era of sustainable development [9].