Accurate cause of death (COD) information is critical to health planning, and the Government of Myanmar has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to improving the quality of the country’s mortality data. However, until recently, the country’s Statistical Yearbook has been based solely on the sixteen percent of deaths that occur in hospitals and have a medically certified cause of death (MCCOD), which are not representative of the country as a whole.
In December 2020, Myanmar’s Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) published its 2020 Statistical Yearbook, which for the first time included critical information on causes of community deaths, which was generated by verbal autopsy (VA). Thanks to the collaborative efforts of key CRVS stakeholders including the CSO, the Ministry of Health and Sports (MOHS) and the General Administration Department, more comprehensive information on community deaths is now available.
Since 2018, in partnership with University of Melbourne Data for Health (UoM D4H), the Myanmar government has implemented VA in a nationally representative sample of 42 townships across Myanmar. Over 80,000 VA deaths were collected over the course of 2018 and 2019, with aggregated cause of death results that were analysed at six monthly intervals by a dedicated team at CSO and MOHS.
Myanmar health workers at a CRVS workshop.
“The inclusion of VA information in the Statistical Yearbook illustrates the government’s commitment to embedding VA and lends credibility to its results,” said Khin Sandar Bo, UoM D4H Myanmar Country Coordinator. “We are very pleased with the VA results, which we believe provide reliable cause of death for the approximately 84% of deaths happening in the community. Not only do we have better information on which to base our health planning, but death registrations have also improved in our target townships.”
As well as community COD data, information on hospital deaths was also collected in the 42 townships. This allowed information from the two sources to be integrated to produce a population-level pattern of cause of death, which was also included in the 2020 Statistical Yearbook. This integrated information has also been used to calculate baseline values for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) indicators, including for SDG 3.4 which aims, by 2030, to reduce premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) by one-third.
The inclusion of VA information in the Statistical Yearbook illustrates the government’s commitment to embedding VA and lends credibility to its results ... Not only do we have better information on which to base our health planning, but death registrations have also improved in our target townships.”
Khin Sandar Bo, UoM D4H Myanmar Country Coordinator
“If you look at the top causes of death in hospital and those in the community, as outlined the Myanmar Statistical Yearbook, it is clear that causes of death differ depending on place of death,” said Sandar. “In particular, NCDs are much more prominent in community deaths. We could only calculate these baseline indicators for NCD mortality because we had access to this information on community deaths. We are seeing more and more benefits and uses from the information collected through VA.”
The Myanmar Statistical Yearbook is a compendium of statistical information on key economic and social indicators of interest to a wide variety of stakeholders including decision-makers, planners, international agencies and the general public. It can be purchased from the CSO office. Past Yearbooks can be viewed here.