Background: Among the available data provided by health information systems, data on mortality are commonly used not only as health indicators but also as socioeconomic development indices. Recognizing that in Iran accurate data on causes of death were not available, the Deputy of Health in the Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MOH&ME) established a new comprehensive system for death registration which started in one province (Bushehr) as a pilot in 1997, and was subsequently expanded to include all other provinces, except Tehran province. These data can be used to investigate the nature and extent of differences in mortality in Iran. The objective of this paper is to estimate provincial differences in the level of mortality using this death registration system.
Methods: Data from the death registration system for 2004 for each province were evaluated for data completeness, and life tables were created for provinces after correction for underenumeration of death registration. For those provinces where it was not possible to adjust the data on adult deaths by using the Brass Growth Balance method, adult mortality was predicted based on adult literacy using information from provinces with reliable data.
Results: Child mortality (risk of a newborn dying before age 5, or 5q0) in 2004 varied between 47 per 1000 live births for both sexes in Sistan and Baluchistan province, and 25 per 1000 live births in Tehran and Gilan provinces. For adults, provincial differences in mortality were much greater for males than females. Adult mortality (risk of dying between ages 15 and 60, or 45q15) for females varied between 0.133 in Kerman province and 0.117 in Tehran province; for males the range was from 0.218 in Kerman to 0.149 in Tehran province. Life expectancy for females was highest in Tehran province (73.8 years) and lowest in Sistan and Baluchistan (70.9 years). For males, life expectancy ranged from 65.7 years in Sistan and Baluchistan province to 70.9 years in Tehran.
Conclusion: Substantial differences in survival exist among the provinces of Iran. While the completeness of the death registration system operated by the Iranian MOH&ME appears to be acceptable in the majority of provinces, further efforts are needed to improve the quality of data on mortality in Iran, and to expand death registration to Tehran province.