Global Health

Nine out of ten people on Earth are exposed to harmful levels of PM2.5 pollution, with the highest exposures occurring in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Ongoing Projects

State of Global Air

The State of Global Air report and interactive website brings a comprehensive analysis of the levels and multi-year trends in air quality and health for more than 200 countries in the world into one place. They are produced annually by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation's (IHME's) Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study and are a source of objective, high-quality, and comparable global air quality data and information.

The report and website are designed to give citizens, journalists, policy-makers, and scientists access to meaningful and reliable information about air pollution exposure and its health effects. These resources are free and available to the public. Learn more.


In collaboration with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, HEI is working to establish a national research network focused on air pollution and health effects research in India: Collaborative of Air Pollution and Health Effects Research (CAPHER-India). This project is supported by the Children's Investment Fund Foundation.

The network will draw upon the expertise available in India to support research projects and capacity building and to facilitate collaboration and encourage engagement of health researchers in policy discussions. The idea for a network emerged from deliberations at a workshop that brought together Indian academics to discuss a broad strategy for advancing the science on air pollution and health effects in India. The workshop was organized by the Health Effects Institute, the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi, and the Sri Ramachandra Institute of Higher Education and Research in Delhi in December 2019. 

Air Quality and Health in Europe

In Europe, HEI continues to work in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) on Air Quality Guidelines and has funded various epidemiologic studies on the health effects of traffic-related air pollution and noise, and on health effects at low exposure concentrations. In January 2020, HEI co-organized a meeting in Brussels alongside the WHO, the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE), the European Respiratory Society (ERS), and the European Commission to review the latest science on major pollutants as a key step in evaluating whether to update Europe's air quality policies. HEI has also worked with the European Union on multi-investigator studies on air pollution and health in Europe and North America (APHENA) and is currently funding a number of research studies on air pollution, traffic, and health in Europe.

Air Pollution and health in Southeast Europe

For decades, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels in the countries of Southeastern Europe have remained higher than in those of Western Europe. HEI is working on a project aimed at increasing understanding of air pollution and health effects in the region with a particular focus on Bulgaria and Serbia. In collaboration with scientists and practitioners in the region, HEI will assemble and synthesize local evidence on health effects and impacts in the context of national, regional, and global air pollution; its sources and burden of disease; and key knowledge gaps that limit policy action. This project is supported by the Clean Air Fund.

Past Projects

Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources (GBD MAPS)

In 2014, HEI initiated the Global Burden of Disease from Major Air Pollution Sources project. Using the GBD framework, investigators for GBD MAPS estimated the burden of disease attributable to coal-burning and other major ambient air pollution sources in China and India. The first phase of the project was completed in 2016 and estimated the burden of disease attributable to major air pollution sources in China in 2013 and in 2030 under four policy-relevant scenarios (see Special Report 20). GBD MAPS estimates for current and future scenarios in India were published in early 2018 (see Special Report 21).

The GBD MAPS Global project provides estimates for the burden of disease attributable to major air pollution sources for more than 200 countries. The report was published in December 2021 (see Research Report 210).

Shipping Emissions in the Yangtze River Delta, China

In China, HEI worked with a team of investigators from Fudan, Tsinghua Universities, and other Chinese research institutions. This project conducted a comprehensive analysis of emissions from shipping and related activities and their impacts on air quality and the health of the populations of the Yangtze River Delta and the city of Shanghai in 2015. Estimates were also prepared for the year 2030 under three future emissions control scenarios (see Special Report 22). 

Household Air Pollution in Ghana

In 2018 and 2019, HEI worked on a synthesis of analyses on source apportionment to evaluate the contribution of household air pollution to ambient fine particle air pollution in Ghana as well as its impact on health (see HEI Communication 19).

Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA)

In the 2000s, with support from foundations, HEI conducted the Public Health and Air Pollution in Asia (PAPA) program (see several research reports and a comprehensive review of the Asian literature on air pollution and health). The PAPA program sought to inform regional decisions about improving air quality in Asia in three major ways:

  1. Periodic assessment and review of the current science on the effects of exposure to air pollution in Asia;
  2. Initiation and execution of new research in seven representative Asian cities; and
  3. Development of scientific and technical capacities of a network of Investigators in Asia.