Counting the dead and what they died from: An assessment of the global status of cause of death data

Mathers, Colin D., Fat, Doris Ma, Inoue, Mie, Rao, Chalapati and Lopez, Alan D. (2005) Counting the dead and what they died from: An assessment of the global status of cause of death data. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 83 3: 171-177. doi:10.1590/S0042-96862005000300009

Author Mathers, Colin D.
Fat, Doris Ma
Inoue, Mie
Rao, Chalapati
Lopez, Alan D.
Title Counting the dead and what they died from: An assessment of the global status of cause of death data
Journal name Bulletin of the World Health Organization   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0042-9686
Publication date 2005-03
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1590/S0042-96862005000300009
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 83
Issue 3
Start page 171
End page 177
Total pages 7
Editor H. Momen
Place of publication Geneva, Switzerland
Publisher World Health Organization
Collection year 2005
Language eng
Subject C1
321203 Health Information Systems (incl. Surveillance)
730299 Public health not elsewhere classified
Formatted abstract
OBJECTIVE: We sought to assess the current status of global data on death registration and to examine several indicators of data completeness and quality.
: We summarized the availability of death registration data by year and country. Indicators of data quality were assessed for each country and included the timeliness, completeness and coverage of registration and the proportion of deaths assigned to ill-defined causes.
FINDINGS: At the end of 2003 data on death registration were available from 115 countries, although they were essentially complete for only 64 countries. Coverage of death registration varies from close to 100% in the WHO European Region to less than 10% in the African Region. Only 23 countries have data that are more than 90% complete, where ill-defined causes account for less than 10% of total of causes of death, and where ICD-9 or ICD-10 codes are used. There are 28 countries where less than 70% of the data are complete or where ill-defined codes are assigned to more than 20% of deaths. Twelve high-income countries in western Europe are included among the 55 countries with intermediate-quality data.
CONCLUSION: Few countries have good-quality data on mortality that can be used to adequately support policy development and implementation. There is an urgent need for countries to implement death registration systems, even if only through sample registration, or enhance their existing systems in order to rapidly improve knowledge about the most basic of health statistics: who dies from what?
Keyword Mortality
Cause Of Death
Data Collection/standards
Vital Statistics
Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status UQ

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Created: Wed, 15 Aug 2007, 06:20:53 EST