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The Ten CRVS milestones framework

Delays in the production of vital statistics

After a birth or death has been registered, the information must be processed and forwarded to the agency responsible for compiling data from the individual records and for analysing the aggregated data. This is usually the responsibility of the National Statistics Office. Data collected at local-level registration offices have to be transmitted to higher-level district, provincial, state and national offices, and compiled. This is an essential step in converting the information recorded on a birth or death registration form into statistics that can be summarised and analysed for statistical and health purposes.

If statistics are to be useful to decision makers, they have to be both timely and complete. These two desirable characteristics sometimes clash. For example, timeliness is needed for monitoring deaths due to notifiable diseases, as demonstrated in the recent Ebola outbreak. Other high priority causes of premature deaths, including suicides, sudden infant deaths, drug-related deaths and deaths in prison,  should be recorded on the national register soon after the event. Even in settings with mature CRVS systems, delays can occur due to the length of time it takes to complete a judicial enquiry. 

However, to ensure that data is complete and accurate, some delays are inevitable. Country statistical authorities can deal with this by publishing interim figures-  often total counts of deaths by age, sex and location, and then updating the statistics when the final numbers are available. 

A delay of more than two years between the registration of births and deaths, and tion of the corresponding statistics will mean that the information will be of only limited use in guiding program planning and implementation. Any delays in transmitting data from local registration offices to higher levels will have a significant negative impact on the availability and quality of aggregated vital statistics and, by extension, on the ability of policy makers to make evidence-based decisions.

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