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40 million deaths a year go unrecorded: Lancet

Washington (IANS): Two in three deaths or 40 million people go unreported and one in three births — another 40 million people — go unregistered globally, a group of leading epidemiologists revealed.

Alan Lopez
Alan Lopez

The solution lies in tapping the growing smartphone technology for accurate data collection that could crack the problem as mobile phones are now common virtually everywhere, they suggested.

In a series of papers that appeared in the prestigious journal The Lancet, professor Alan Lopez from University of Melbourne argued that accurately recording birth registration and cause of death is vitally important to leaders around the world.

“To put this in perspective, 140 countries or 80 percent of the world’s population — do not have reliable cause of death statistics,” said Lopez, one of the series lead authors.

He led a global campaign to improve how countries capture civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).

The four-paper Lancet series promote the case to change CRVS systems to collect more reliable and timely data.

“Policy should be informed by accurate and timely data. Poor quality data equals poor decisions which, in turn, leads to lost opportunities to improve population health,” Lopez added.

In remote areas where there are no doctors, CRVS improvements could include family members of deceased responding to a limited number of questions about symptoms experienced by the deceased which can be analysed to record a most-likely cause of death.

“In many cases, an algorithm can record cause of death more accurately than a physician,” he noted.

The first paper highlighted inconsistent record-keeping worldwide and argued for marked improvements in order to gather better statistics to help policy makers make better decisions.

The second paper makes the case that good CRVS data is not only required for informing health policies but that it is also actually good for health.

In the third paper, the authors monitor the development of existing CRVS systems and its limited growth.

The concluding paper presents a research and development agenda for CRVS and challenges global health and development agencies to ensure that every birth and death is registered.

Technology advances such as mobile phones can transmit information about recent cases of births and deaths, the authors concluded.

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