SEATTLE – Nearly two in three deaths worldwide are still undocumented, meaning no death certificate is produced to account for the death or what caused it. To fill this massive knowledge gap, newly updated software that can identify the underlying cause of death from a survey of people familiar with the final illness of the deceased was launched today (May 15, 2017).
“This updated software, which has the capability to analyze the results of a verbal autopsy survey, can help identify the leading causes of death in populations where this is now a mystery,” said lead software creator Dr. Abraham Flaxman, Assistant Professor of Global Health at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Verbal autopsy is a method that uses a face-to-face interview to obtain information about the illness that led to a death. While the survey may be simple, the process of taking the survey results and determining a potential underlying cause of death is more complicated. The lack of physicians to “certify” verbal autopsies has been a critical barrier to scaling up this approach, so in response, an algorithm was created to predict the cause of death from verbal autopsy survey data, providing fast and accurate estimates.
IHME released an updated version of the SmartVA-Analyze software tool, which augments the IHME-developed “Tariff 2.0” algorithm for predicting causes of death from verbal autopsies by adding a suite of logical rules and cross-checks.
The app accepts data collected electronically with Android tablets and produces predictions of the most likely cause of death separately for adult, child, and infant deaths. As many countries consider using verbal autopsy collection to augment limited vital registration mechanisms, SmartVA provides a way to streamline the process from data collection to usable results.
The newly released version 1.2 of SmartVA-Analyze features:
- Updates to the algorithm to improve predictions across diverse populations;
- Better handling and warnings for input data;
- A command-line interface for integrating SmartVA-Analyze into automated systems.
This software is available free-of-charge and can be downloaded from the IHME website (http://www.healthdata.org/verbal-autopsy/tools).
Dean R. Owen, +1-206-897-2858 (office); +1-206-434-5630 (cell); [email protected]
Established in 2007, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent global health research center within UW Medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. IHME provides rigorous and comparable measurement of the world’s most important health problems and evaluates strategies to address them. IHME makes this information available so that policymakers, donors, practitioners, researchers, and local and global decision-makers have the evidence they need to make informed decisions about how to allocate resources to best improve population health. For more information, visit www.healthdata.org.