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CRVS helping to understand the value of cause of death data

Reliable and timely statistics on mortality and cause of death (COD) are essential for the development of national health and population policies, and underpin the ability of countries to respond to emerging health threats and epidemics. The Sustainable Development Goals call for monitoring:

  • Maternal, infant and child mortality
  • Mortality from infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria
  • Mortality due to noncommunicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular conditions
  • External causes of death such as traffic crashes, suicide and violence.

The United Nations and World Health Organization (WHO) standards for mortality statistics require the recording in the civil registry of all deaths, by age, sex, date and place of occurrence, along with medical certification of the COD by trained physicians according to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The information should be regularly compiled into vital statistics through national civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. 

Many countries have stepped up their efforts to register all deaths by age and sex. This is a crucial first step that generates invaluable information on levels and distribution of mortality. However, improving the availability and quality of COD statistics is particularly challenging.

It will take time and effort before CRVS systems in low and lower middle-income countries are able to ensure that all deaths are medically certified in alignment with international standards. This is especially so in rural and remote areas, where most deaths occur at home and where physicians with the requisite training and skills are in short supply. Although many countries do collect COD data through the routine health information systems, these are often based solely on hospital deaths, which are an incomplete and biased sample of all deaths in a country and therefore of limited utility for health purposes.

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Outcomes of improving death data in Solomon Islands

Strengthening CRVS in Solomon Islands is a challenge because data, especially death data, have never been collected before in an organised manner. Only two percent of all estimated deaths are registered in the country. Dilip Hensman, Technical Officer, World Health Organization explains. Watch Dilip describe the barriers to death notification in the Solomon Islands:

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