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BMC Public Health. 2012; 12: 401.
Published online Jun 6, 2012. doi:  10.1186/1471-2458-12-401
PMCID: PMC3444415
Burden of disease resulting from chronic mountain sickness among young Chinese male immigrants in Tibet
Tao Pei,#1,3,4 Xiaoxiao Li,#1,2,3,4 Fasheng Tao,5 Haotong Xu,6 Haiyan You,1,3,4 Linlin Zhou,1,3,4 Yan Liu,7 and Yuqi Gaocorresponding author1,3,4
1Department of Health Service, College of High Altitude Military Medicine, Third Military Medical University, 30 Gaotanyan Street, Shapingba District, Chongqing, 400038, P. R. China
2Beijing Long March Scientific and Technical Information Institute, Beijing, 100076, P. R. China
3Key Laboratory of High Altitude Medicine, Ministry of Education, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, 400038, P. R. China
4Key Laboratory of High Altitude Medicine, PLA, Chongqing, 400038, P. R. China
5Department of Health Service, Urumqi General Hospital of Lanzhou Military District, Urumqi, Xinjiang, 830000, P. R. China
6Department of Radiology, Nanchong Central Hospital of North Sichuan Medical College, Nanchong, Sichuan, 637000, P. R. China
7Department of Health Service, Ngari Military Subdistrict, Tibet, 859000, P. R. China
corresponding authorCorresponding author.
#Contributed equally.
Tao Pei: radiodog/at/sina.com; Xiaoxiao Li: shawnleemm/at/gmail.com; Fasheng Tao: qxsmtfs/at/126.com; Haotong Xu: xuliangxman/at/hotmail.com; Haiyan You: 395905581/at/qq.com; Linlin Zhou: 36359557/at/qq.com; Yan Liu: cqlyzq/at/yahoo.com.cn; Yuqi Gao: gaoy66/at/yahoo.com
Received August 17, 2011; Accepted June 6, 2012.
Abstract
Background
In young Chinese men of the highland immigrant population, chronic mountain sickness (CMS) is a major public health problem. The aim of this study was to measure the disease burden of CMS in this population.
Methods
We used disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) to estimate the disease burden of CMS. Disability weights were derived using the person trade-off methodology. CMS diagnoses, symptom severity, and individual characteristics were obtained from surveys collected in Tibet in 2009 and 2010. The DALYs of individual patients and the DALYs/1,000 were calculated.
Results
Disability weights were obtained for 21 CMS health stages. The results of the analyses of the two surveys were consistent with each other. At different altitudes, the CMS rates ranged from 2.1-37.4%; the individual DALYs of patients ranged from 0.13-0.33, and the DALYs/1,000 ranged from 3.60-52.78. The age, highland service years, blood pressure, heart rate, smoking rate, and proportion of the sample working in engineering or construction were significantly higher in the CMS group than in the non-CMS group (p < 0.05). These variables were also positively associated with the individual DALYs (p < 0.05). Among the symptoms, headaches caused the largest proportion of DALYs.
Conclusion
The results show that CMS imposes a considerable burden on Chinese immigrants to Tibet. Immigrants with characteristics such as a higher residential altitude, more advanced age, longer highland service years, being a smoker, and working in engineering or construction were more likely to develop CMS and to increase the disease burden. Higher blood pressure and heart rate as a result of CMS were also positively associated with the disease burden. The authorities should pay attention to the highland disease burden and support the development and application of DALYs studies of CMS and other highland diseases.
Keywords: chronic mountain sickness, burden of disease, disability-adjusted life years, disability weight, immigrant, high altitude
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