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Coding causes of death to statistical categories

From cause of death certification to statistical coding

The previous sections described the importance of having all deaths medically certified by a qualified and appropriately trained physician, using the International Form of Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, and coded according to International Classification of Diseases (ICD) standards. 

Once the physician has certified a death, the cause of death (COD) has to be coded correctly according to international rules and standards laid down in the ICD (10th revision). The quality of coding is highly dependent upon the quality of certification. If certification is poorly done, and the death certificate is incomplete or incorrect, coding cannot be done correctly.

Thus, certification and coding are two separate, but interdependent processes, and both need to be implemented correctly to generate dependable data for health policy and planning:

  • First, the physician completes the medical certificate of cause of death (ideally based on the WHO International Form) that describes the sequence of morbid events leading to death (Medical certification of cause of death).
  • Then, the causes of death listed on the medical certificate of cause of death are coded by trained coders to classify the underlying cause of death (UCOD) to a statistical category in accordance with the rules of the ICD (The international form of medical certificate of cause of death). 


Read more

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2008). Cause of death certification: information paper. 

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Challenges to timely and sensitive death certification in Tanzania

Godfrey M Semu, Health Record and Information Officer at the Muhimbili National Hospital describes the challenges to timely death certification in Tanzania.

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