Multimorbidity: a priority for global health research

In 2018, the Academy of Medical Sciences published its first international policy report evaluating the growing issue of multimorbidity as a global health challenge.


Throughout the world, as life expectancy increases, the population incidence of non-communicable diseases is also increasing. Further, communicable diseases continue to affect millions of people every year. Together, all of these factors mean that multimorbidity has become, and will increasingly be, an international health challenge.

However, currently there is no commonly used framework for defining or more widely understanding multimorbidity. Further, most health related research is currently focused on the prevention and management of disorders in isolation. Consequently, it is difficult to compile a coherent body of research in this area or develop evidence-based strategies for use in healthcare systems.

In order to address the international challenge of multimorbidity, we must understand the problem better. The Academy is therefore delighted to have published a policy report which explores multimorbidity in an international context.

The full report and an associated ‘Overview and key messages’ document can be downloaded from the right-hand side of this page.

The report summarises the available evidence on multimorbidity and highlights key evidence gaps. In doing so, the report calls for a standardised definition and reporting system for multimorbidity, and recommends a series of research priorities to better understand:

  • The trends and patterns of multimorbidity across the globe.
  • The burden caused by common clusters of conditions.
  • The determinants of the most common clusters of conditions.
  • How best to prevent the development of multimorbidity.
  • How to maximise benefits and limit risks of treatment for patients with multimorbidity.
  • How to organise healthcare systems to better manage patients with multimorbidity.

More information and some thoughts on the findings of the report can be found here

The report was informed by an expert international working group, a call for written evidence, and by two international workshops to explore the issue with researchers and research funders from a range of countries.

For additional information about the working group members and project activities please see the tabs at the top of this page.

Following the publication of this policy report, the Academy organised a two-day workshop together with the Medical Research Council (MRC, now part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), and Wellcome. Held on 20 and 21 June, this workshop provided a platform from which to further explore how best to enable multimorbidity research in the UK and across low-and middle-income countries. 

We are delighted that the outcomes of this workshop fed into a joint funding call issued by the MRC and NIHR in July 2018, which invited proposals aiming to increase our understanding of disease clustering in the UK context. The call is now closed, although more information can still be found at the following site: 

The report from this workshop can now also be downloaded from the right-hand side of this page. More information about the workshop, including an agenda and copies of the presentations, can be found on our dedicated page by clicking here

We would welcome your comments on the report and will happily address any questions not answered on this page.

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