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Methods and tools to evaluate the quality of vital statistics

Minimum characteristics to collect for mortality statistics

For mortality statistics, the UN’s Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system, revision 31 recommends that countries should collect, at a minimum, the:

  • Name, sex, and date of birth/age of decedent
  • Date and place of death 
  • Date of registration of death 
  • Place of usual residence
  • Cause of death (including who certified the cause of death).

However, even when all this information is collected when registering a death, the coverage and completeness of registration will greatly affect the utility of the resulting mortality statistics. The effect of these two factors are discussed below.

The representativeness of the mortality data can also be biased if not all populations and areas are covered. For instance, certain ethnic groups or people living in rural and/or remote areas may have a different health status and disease patterns compared with the national average. 

From a data quality perspective, the biggest challenge for many countries is to register or record all deaths that take place in the community. In many countries, more than 50 per cent of deaths occur outside of medical facilities, and many never get registered or identified by the health system. Knowing how many deaths are missed and, therefore, the extent of incomplete registration is a primary concern for many civil registration systems because it seriously limits the utility of the data produced (refer to Deaths cause of death statistics). 


1 United Nations (2014). Principles and recommendations for a vital statistics system, revision 3, UN, New York.

Read more

World Health Organization (2010). International statistical classification of diseases and related health problems, 10th revision, World Health Organization, Geneva.

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