A better understanding of leading causes of death is needed in areas with poor or nonexistent vital registration systems. This information is critical for planning government facilities, policy, and interventions. To address this need, a five-year project was granted to the University of Queensland by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
This project, Improving Methods to Measure Comparable Mortality by Cause, uses a combination of hospital records and verbal autopsy methods to create a more comprehensive means of ascertaining causes of death in an area. IHME is a lead collaborator on the project, involved in study design and data analysis.
The project is collecting data in three study locations: the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and Bangladesh.
- University of Queensland, School of Population Health (Australia)
- Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (the Philippines)
- International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research (Bangladesh)
- Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (Papua New Guinea)
The research activities carried out by this project:
- Provide enhanced means to more accurately estimate causes of death within a population using standardized, easily implemented methods.
- Enable governments, donors, and researchers to make informed decisions about necessary interventions within resource-poor communities lacking vital registration systems.
Develop methods to more accurately measure cause-specific mortality in populations with incomplete or inadequate vital registration systems
This study is working to develop a method for combining hospital record information with verbal autopsy techniques to estimate the leading causes of death for an area. Verbal autopsies are an established method that use a questionnaire to collect information from close relatives about signs, symptoms, demographic characteristics, and other contributing risk factors or characteristics about a family member’s death. When verbal autopsies are administered in a community, the responses are used to estimate the population-level causes of death for the area. This study uses the verbal autopsy instrument and analysis methods from the Population Health Metrics Research Consortium project to collect new verbal autopsies in the three field sites.
In addition to verbal autopsy data, hospital records provide key insight into causes of death within a community. Hospital data alone present a biased representation of the community, given the wide variation in the nature of conditions of in-facility deaths, the access of a community and an individual to health services, and myriad other factors. This study is developing a method to estimate the proportion of deaths due to a specific cause that occur in facilities. By establishing the proportion of deaths that occur in a hospital and using this in conjunction with available hospital records, we can estimate the number of deaths due to a cause that likely happen within the community. This study uses both the community verbal autopsy data and hospital information to jointly provide a method for more accurately ascertaining population-level causes of death.
The goal of the Improving Methods to Measure Comparable Mortality by Cause project is to provide more accurate estimates of causes of death in areas lacking vital registration systems in order to plan effective health interventions.