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Checking the accuracy of vital events records

Common issues and challenges: microdata

At the moment of registration, if there are not some simple checks in place to verify that the information entered on the record is correct and complete, the quality of the data will suffer. Unfortunately, not all countries have a basic set of SOPs that staff are meant to follow to systematically review registration data and verify the veracity of the supporting documentation – that is, a notification agent, a medical death certificate, the identity papers (if required) and any other documentation requested for the registration to take place.

There are many potential sources of errors in microdata that affect the quality of the vital statistics produced. The more critical sources of error are: 

  • Not reporting, or misreporting, the age at death or the age of the mother
  • Not reporting the usual residence of the decedent or the mother
  • Not recording the sex of the decedent or sex of a newborn baby
  • Not indicating the place of occurrence or usual residence
  • Not registering the event within the time limit
  • Not indicating the cause of death. 

In CRVS systems that compile data electronically, it should not be assumed that people who can operate computers also have the necessary numeracy skills and understanding of quality assessment to routinely check the data. Lack of training and awareness in these areas can lead to unnecessary errors and omissions in the microdata.

Efficient record review can only be done at the source where the data are collected. It is therefore crucial that staff at this level have been trained, and know how to competently check and verify the data and the supporting information. Once the information on the records has been compiled and aggregated, it is difficult to make corrections to the raw data. 

Read more

Health Information Systems Knowledge Hub and the World Health Organization (2012). Strengthening civil registration and vital statistics for births, deaths and causes of death: Resource kit. World Health Organization, Geneva.

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