Search tips
Search criteria

Results 1-25 (104)

Clipboard (0)

Select a Filter Below

Year of Publication
more »
1.  Laboratory-Enhanced Dengue Sentinel Surveillance in Colombo District, Sri Lanka: 2012-2014 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2016;10(2):e0004477.
Dengue has emerged as a significant public health problem in Sri Lanka. Historically surveillance was passive, with mandatory dengue notifications based on clinical diagnosis with only limited laboratory confirmation. To obtain more accurate data on the disease burden of dengue, we set up a laboratory-based enhanced sentinel surveillance system in Colombo District. Here we describe the study design and report our findings of enhanced surveillance in the years 2012–2014.
Three outpatient clinics and three government hospitals in Colombo District that covered most of the Colombo metropolitan area were selected for the sentinel surveillance system. Up to 60 patients per week presenting with an undifferentiated fever were enrolled. Acute blood samples from each patient were tested by dengue specific PCR, NS1 ELISA and IgM ELISA. A sub-set of samples was sent to Duke-NUS Singapore for quality assurance, virus isolation and serotyping. Trained medical research assistants used a standardized case report form to record clinical and epidemiological data. Clinical diagnoses by the clinicians-in-charge were recorded for hospitalized cases.
Of 3,127 febrile cases, 43.6% were PCR and/or NS1 positive for dengue. A high proportion of lab confirmed dengue was observed from inpatients (IPD) (53.9%) compared to outpatient (clinics in hospitals and general practice) (7.6%). Dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) was diagnosed in 11% of patients at the time of first contact, and the median day of illness at time of presentation to the sentinel sites was 4. Dengue serotype 1 was responsible for 85% of the cases and serotype 4 for 15%. The sensitivity and specificity of the clinicians’ presumptive diagnosis of dengue was 84% and 34%, respectively.
DENV-1, and to a lesser degree DENV-4, infection were responsible for a high proportion of febrile illnesses in Colombo in the years 2012 to 2014. Clinicians’ diagnoses were associated with high sensitivity, but laboratory confirmation is required to enhance specificity.
Author Summary
The dramatic spread of epidemic dengue underscores the urgent need for better surveillance and control of this disease. The main purpose of surveillance is to provide timely and more accurate information to institute preventive or control measures for epidemic dengue. Dengue has emerged as a major public health problem in Sri Lanka. To obtain more data on the burden of dengue, a laboratory-based enhanced sentinel surveillance system was established in metropolitan Colombo. In this paper we describe how we set up the sentinel sites and report the results of the first two years of enhanced surveillance (2012–2014). Of 3,127 patients presenting with acute onset of fever, 43.6% had laboratory confirmed dengue (PCR of NS1 positive), mainly caused by dengue serotype 1. Clinicians’ diagnoses were associated with high sensitivity, but our findings also show that laboratory confirmation is required to enhance specificity. There were 5 deaths, all due to dengue hemorrhagic fever.
PMCID: PMC4771705  PMID: 26927901
2.  A Successful Failure: Missing the MDG4 Target for Under-Five Mortality in South Africa 
PLoS Medicine  2015;12(12):e1001926.
Reflecting on under-five mortality, Peter Byass and colleagues consider how some countries may fail to meet millennium development goal targets despite making considerable advances.
PMCID: PMC4687868  PMID: 26694732
3.  Risk Factors for Maternal Mortality in Rural Tigray, Northern Ethiopia: A Case-Control Study 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(12):e0144975.
Maternal mortality continues to have devastating impacts in many societies, where it constitutes a leading cause of death, and thus remains a core issue in international development. Nevertheless, individual determinants of maternal mortality are often unclear and subject to local variation. This study aims to characterise individual risk factors for maternal mortality in Tigray, Ethiopia.
A community-based case-control study was conducted, with 62 cases and 248 controls from six randomly-selected rural districts. All maternal deaths between May 2012 and September 2013 were recruited as cases and a random sample of mothers who delivered in the same communities within the same time period were taken as controls. Multiple logistic regression was used to identify independent determinants of maternal mortality.
Four independent individual risk factors, significantly associated with maternal death, emerged. Women who were not members of the voluntary Women’s Development Army were more likely to experience maternal death (OR 2.07, 95% CI 1.04–4.11), as were women whose husbands or partners had below-median scores for involvement during pregnancy (OR 2.19, 95% CI 1.14–4.18). Women with a pre-existing history of other illness were also at increased risk (OR 5.58, 95% CI 2.17–14.30), as were those who had never used contraceptives (OR 2.58, 95% CI 1.37–4.85). Previous pregnancy complications, a below-median number of antenatal care visits and a woman’s lack of involvement in health care decision making were significant bivariable risks that were not significant in the multivariable model.
The findings suggest that interventions aimed at reducing maternal mortality need to focus on encouraging membership of the Women’s Development Army, enhancing husbands’ involvement in maternal health services, improving linkages between maternity care and other disease-specific programmes and ensuring that women with previous illnesses or non-users of contraceptive services are identified and followed-up as being at increased risk during pregnancy and childbirth.
PMCID: PMC4683071  PMID: 26678047
4.  Local perceptions of causes of death in rural South Africa: a comparison of perceived and verbal autopsy causes of death 
Global Health Action  2015;8:10.3402/gha.v8.28302.
Understanding how lay people perceive the causes of mortality and their associated risk factors is important for public health. In resource-limited settings, where verbal autopsy (VA) is used as the most expedient method of determining cause of death, it is important to understand how pre-existing concepts of cause of death among VA-informants may influence their VA-responses and the consequential impact on cause of death assessment. This study describes the agreement between VA-derived causes of death and informant-perceived causes and associated influential factors, which also reflects lay health literacy in this setting.
Using 20 years of VA data (n=11,228) from the Agincourt Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) site in rural South Africa, we explored the agreement between the causes of death perceived by the VA-informants and those assigned by the automated Inter-VA tool. Kappa statistics and concordance correlation coefficients were applied to measure agreement at individual and population levels, respectively. Multivariable regression models were used to explore factors associated with recognised lay perceptions of causes of mortality.
Agreement between informant-perceived and VA-derived causes of death at the individual level was limited, but varied substantially by cause of death. However, agreement at the population level, comparing cause-specific mortality fractions was higher, with the notable exception of bewitchment as a cause. More recent deaths, those in adults aged 15–49 years, deaths outside the home, and those associated with external causes showed higher concordance with InterVA.
Overall, informant perception of causes of death was limited, but depended on informant characteristics and causes of death, and to some extent involved non-biomedical constructs. Understanding discordance between perceived and recognised causes of death is important for public health planning; low community understanding of causes of death may be detrimental to public health. These findings also illustrate the importance of using rigorous and standardised VA methods rather than relying on informants’ reported causes of death.
PMCID: PMC4507750  PMID: 26193897
community perception; causes of death; verbal autopsy
5.  Achieving a 25% reduction in premature non-communicable disease mortality: the Swedish population as a cohort study 
BMC Medicine  2015;13:65.
The 2012 World Health Assembly set a target for Member States to reduce premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality by 25% over the period 2010 to 2025. This reflected concerns about increasing NCD mortality burdens among productive adults globally. This article first considers whether the WHO target of a 25% reduction in the unconditional probability of dying between ages of 30 and 70 from NCDs (cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, or chronic respiratory diseases) has already taken place in Sweden during an equivalent 15-year period. Secondly, it assesses which population sub-groups have been more or less successful in contributing to overall changes in premature NCD mortality in Sweden.
A retrospective dynamic cohort database was constructed from Swedish population registers in the Linnaeus database, covering the entire population in the age range 30 to 69 years for the period 1991 to 2006, which was used directly to measure reductions in premature NCD mortality using a life table method as specified by the WHO. Multivariate Poisson regression models were used to assess the contributions of individual background factors to decreases in premature NCD mortality.
A total of 292,320 deaths occurred in the 30 to 69 year age group during the period 1991 to 2006, against 70,768,848 person-years registered. The crude all-cause mortality rate declined from 5.03 to 3.72 per 1,000 person-years, a 26% reduction. Within this, the unconditional probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 from NCD causes as defined by the WHO fell by 30.0%. Age was consistently the strongest determinant of NCD mortality. Background determinants of NCD mortality changed significantly over the four time periods 1991–1994, 1995–1998, 1999–2002, and 2003–2006.
Sweden, now at a late stage of epidemiological transition, has already exceeded the 25% premature NCD mortality reduction target during an earlier 15-year period. This should be encouraging news for countries currently implementing premature NCD mortality reduction programmes. Our findings suggest, however, that it may be difficult for Sweden and other late-transition countries to reach the current 25 × 25 target, particularly where substantial premature mortality reductions have already been achieved.
PMCID: PMC4393602  PMID: 25889300
25 × 25 Target; Mortality; Non-communicable disease; Sweden; World Health Organization
6.  Comparing verbal autopsy cause of death findings as determined by physician coding and probabilistic modelling: a public health analysis of 54 000 deaths in Africa and Asia 
Journal of Global Health  null;5(1):010402.
Coverage of civil registration and vital statistics varies globally, with most deaths in Africa and Asia remaining either unregistered or registered without cause of death. One important constraint has been a lack of fit–for–purpose tools for registering deaths and assigning causes in situations where no doctor is involved. Verbal autopsy (interviewing care–givers and witnesses to deaths and interpreting their information into causes of death) is the only available solution. Automated interpretation of verbal autopsy data into cause of death information is essential for rapid, consistent and affordable processing.
Verbal autopsy archives covering 54 182 deaths from five African and Asian countries were sourced on the basis of their geographical, epidemiological and methodological diversity, with existing physician–coded causes of death attributed. These data were unified into the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy standard format, and processed using the InterVA–4 model. Cause–specific mortality fractions from InterVA–4 and physician codes were calculated for each of 60 WHO 2012 cause categories, by age group, sex and source. Results from the two approaches were assessed for concordance and ratios of fractions by cause category. As an alternative metric, the Wilcoxon matched–pairs signed ranks test with two one–sided tests for stochastic equivalence was used.
The overall concordance correlation coefficient between InterVA–4 and physician codes was 0.83 (95% CI 0.75 to 0.91) and this increased to 0.97 (95% CI 0.96 to 0.99) when HIV/AIDS and pulmonary TB deaths were combined into a single category. Over half (53%) of the cause category ratios between InterVA–4 and physician codes by source were not significantly different from unity at the 99% level, increasing to 62% by age group. Wilcoxon tests for stochastic equivalence also demonstrated equivalence.
These findings show strong concordance between InterVA–4 and physician–coded findings over this large and diverse data set. Although these analyses cannot prove that either approach constitutes absolute truth, there was high public health equivalence between the findings. Given the urgent need for adequate cause of death data from settings where deaths currently pass unregistered, and since the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy standard and InterVA–4 tools represent relatively simple, cheap and available methods for determining cause of death on a large scale, they should be used as current tools of choice to fill gaps in cause of death data.
PMCID: PMC4337147  PMID: 25734004
7.  Understanding maternal mortality from top–down and bottom–up perspectives: Case of Tigray Region, Ethiopia 
Journal of Global Health  null;5(1):010404.
Unacceptably high levels of preventable maternal mortality persist as a problem across sub–Saharan Africa and much of south Asia. Currently, local assessments of the magnitude of maternal mortality are not often made, so the best available information for health planning may come from global estimates and not reflect local circumstances.
A community–based cross-sectional survey was designed to identify all live births together with all deaths among women aged 15–49 years retrospectively over a one–year period in six randomly selected districts of Tigray Region, northern Ethiopia. After birth and death identification, Health Extension Workers trained to use the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy (VA) tool visited households to carry out VAs on all deaths among women aged 15–49 years. All pregnancy–related deaths were identified after processing the VA material using the InterVA–4 model, which corresponds to the WHO 2012 VA. A maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was calculated for each District and expressed with a 95% confidence interval (CI).
The MMRs across the six sampled Districts ranged from 37 deaths per 100 000 live births (95% CI 1 to 207) to 482 deaths per 100 000 live births (95% CI 309 to 718). The overall MMR for Tigray Region was calculated at 266 deaths per 100 000 live births (95% CI 198 to 350). Direct obstetric causes accounted for 61% of all pregnancy–related deaths. Haemorrhage was the major cause of pregnancy–related death (34%). District–level MMRs were strongly inversely correlated with population density (r2 = 0.86).
This simple but well–designed survey approach enabled estimation of maternal mortality in Tigray Region on a local, contemporary basis. It also provided insights into possible local variations in MMR and their determinants. Consequently, this approach could be implemented at regional level in other large sub–Saharan African countries, or at national level in smaller ones to monitor and evaluate maternal health service interventions.
PMCID: PMC4306295  PMID: 25674351
8.  Changing use of traditional healthcare amongst those dying of HIV related disease and TB in rural South Africa from 2003 – 2011: a retrospective cohort study 
In 2011 there were 5.5 million HIV infected people in South Africa and 71% of those requiring antiretroviral therapy (ART) received it. The effective integration of traditional medical practitioners and biomedical providers in HIV prevention and care has been demonstrated. However concerns remain that the use of traditional treatments for HIV-related disease may lead to pharmacokinetic interactions between herbal remedies and ART drugs and delay ART initiation. Here we analyse the changing prevalence and determinants of traditional healthcare use amongst those dying of HIV-related disease, pulmonary tuberculosis and other causes in a rural South African community between 2003 and 2011. ART was made available in this area in the latter part of this period.
Data was collected during household visits and verbal autopsy interviews. InterVA-4 was used to assign causes of death. Spatial analyses of the distribution of traditional healthcare use were performed. Logistic regression models were developed to test associations of determinants with traditional healthcare use.
There were 5929 deaths in the study population of which 47.7% were caused by HIV-related disease or pulmonary tuberculosis (HIV/AIDS and TB). Traditional healthcare use declined for all deaths, with higher levels throughout for those dying of HIV/AIDS and TB than for those dying of other causes. In 2003-2005, sole use of biomedical treatment was reported for 18.2% of HIV/AIDS and TB deaths and 27.2% of other deaths, by 2008–2011 the figures were 49.9% and 45.3% respectively. In bivariate analyses, higher traditional healthcare use was associated with Mozambican origin, lower education levels, death in 2003–2005 compared to the later time periods, longer illness duration and moderate increases in prior household mortality. In the multivariate model only country of origin, time period and illness duration remained associated.
There were large decreases in reported traditional healthcare use and increases in the sole use of biomedical treatment amongst those dying of HIV/AIDS and TB. No associations between socio-economic position, age or gender and the likelihood of traditional healthcare use were seen. Further qualitative and quantitative studies are needed to assess whether these figures reflect trends in healthcare use amongst the entire population and the reasons for the temporal changes identified.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-504) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4325963  PMID: 25515165
Traditional medical practitioner; Traditional medicine; Antiretroviral therapy; HIV; AIDS; Mortality; Tuberculosis; Demographic surveillance system; South Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa; Risk factor
9.  Deaths Ascribed to Non-Communicable Diseases among Rural Kenyan Adults Are Proportionately Increasing: Evidence from a Health and Demographic Surveillance System, 2003–2010 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e114010.
Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) result in more deaths globally than other causes. Monitoring systems require strengthening to attribute the NCD burden and deaths in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Data from health and demographic surveillance systems (HDSS) can contribute towards this goal.
Methods and Findings
Between 2003 and 2010, 15,228 deaths in adults aged 15 years (y) and older were identified retrospectively using the HDSS census and verbal autopsy in rural western Kenya, attributed into broad categories using InterVA-4 computer algorithms; 37% were ascribed to NCDs, 60% to communicable diseases (CDs), 3% to injuries, and <1% maternal causes. Median age at death for NCDs was 66y and 71y for females and males, respectively, with 43% (39% male, 48% female) of NCD deaths occurring prematurely among adults aged below 65y. NCD deaths were mainly attributed to cancers (35%) and cardio-vascular diseases (CVDs; 29%). The proportionate mortality from NCDs rose from 35% in 2003 to 45% in 2010 (χ2 linear trend 93.4; p<0.001). While overall annual mortality rates (MRs) for NCDs fell, cancer-specific MRs rose from 200 to 262 per 100,000 population, mainly due to increasing deaths in adults aged 65y and older, and to respiratory neoplasms in all age groups. The substantial fall in CD MRs resulted in similar MRs for CDs and NCDs among all adult females by 2010. NCD MRs for adults aged 15y to <65y fell from 409 to 183 per 100,000 among females and from 517 to 283 per 100,000 population among males. NCD MRs were higher among males than females aged both below, and at or above, 65y.
NCDs constitute a significant proportion of deaths in rural western Kenya. Evidence of the increasing contribution of NCDs to overall mortality supports international recommendations to introduce or enhance prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment programmes in LMICs.
PMCID: PMC4245262  PMID: 25426945
10.  Determinants of the risk of dying of HIV/AIDS in a rural South African community over the period of the decentralised roll-out of antiretroviral therapy: a longitudinal study 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.24826.
Antiretroviral treatment (ART) has significantly reduced HIV mortality in South Africa. The benefits have not been experienced by all groups. Here we investigate the factors associated with these inequities.
This study was located in a rural South African setting and used data collected from 2007 to 2010, the period when decentralised ART became available. Approximately one-third of the population were of Mozambican origin. There was a pattern of repeated circular migration between urban areas and this community. Survival analysis models were developed to identify demographic, socioeconomic, and spatial risk factors for HIV mortality.
Among the study population of 105,149 individuals, there were 2,890 deaths. The HIV/TB mortality rate decreased by 27% between 2007–2008 and 2009–2010. For other causes of death, the reduction was 10%. Bivariate analysis found that the HIV/TB mortality risk was lower for: those living within 5 km of the Bhubezi Community Health Centre; women; young adults; in-migrants with a longer period of residence; permanent residents; and members of households owning motorised transport, holding higher socioeconomic positions, and with higher levels of education. Multivariate modelling showed, in addition, that those with South Africa as their country of origin had an increased risk of HIV/TB mortality compared to those with Mozambican origins. For males, those of South African origin, and recent in-migrants, the risk of death associated with HIV/TB was significantly greater than that due to other causes.
In this community, a combination of factors was associated with an increased risk of dying of HIV/TB over the period of the roll-out of ART. There is evidence for the presence of barriers to successful treatment for particular sub-groups in the population, which must be addressed if the recent improvements in population-level mortality are to be maintained.
PMCID: PMC4245451  PMID: 25416322
HIV; mortality; determinants; global health; population health; healthcare access; South Africa
11.  Mortality from external causes in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH Health and Demographic Surveillance System Sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25366.
Mortality from external causes, of all kinds, is an important component of overall mortality on a global basis. However, these deaths, like others in Africa and Asia, are often not counted or documented on an individual basis. Overviews of the state of external cause mortality in Africa and Asia are therefore based on uncertain information. The INDEPTH Network maintains longitudinal surveillance, including cause of death, at population sites across Africa and Asia, which offers important opportunities to document external cause mortality at the population level across a range of settings.
To describe patterns of mortality from external causes at INDEPTH Network sites across Africa and Asia, according to the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy (VA) cause categories.
All deaths at INDEPTH sites are routinely registered and followed up with VA interviews. For this study, VA archives were transformed into the WHO 2012 VA standard format and processed using the InterVA-4 model to assign cause of death. Routine surveillance data also provide person-time denominators for mortality rates.
A total of 5,884 deaths due to external causes were documented over 11,828,253 person-years. Approximately one-quarter of those deaths were to children younger than 15 years. Causes of death were dominated by childhood drowning in Bangladesh, and by transport-related deaths and intentional injuries elsewhere. Detailed mortality rates are presented by cause of death, age group, and sex.
The patterns of external cause mortality found here generally corresponded with expectations and other sources of information, but they fill some important gaps in population-based mortality data. They provide an important source of information to inform potentially preventive intervention designs.
PMCID: PMC4220124  PMID: 25377327
external causes; accidents; suicide; assault; transport; drowning; Africa; Asia; mortality; INDEPTH Network; verbal autopsy; InterVA
12.  Cause-specific childhood mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH health and demographic surveillance system sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25363.
Childhood mortality, particularly in the first 5 years of life, is a major global concern and the target of Millennium Development Goal 4. Although the majority of childhood deaths occur in Africa and Asia, these are also the regions where such deaths are least likely to be registered. The INDEPTH Network works to alleviate this problem by collating detailed individual data from defined Health and Demographic Surveillance sites. By registering deaths and carrying out verbal autopsies to determine cause of death across many such sites, using standardised methods, the Network seeks to generate population-based mortality statistics that are not otherwise available.
To present a description of cause-specific mortality rates and fractions over the first 15 years of life as documented by INDEPTH Network sites in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia.
All childhood deaths at INDEPTH sites are routinely registered and followed up with verbal autopsy (VA) interviews. For this study, VA archives were transformed into the WHO 2012 VA standard format and processed using the InterVA-4 model to assign cause of death. Routine surveillance data also provided person-time denominators for mortality rates. Cause-specific mortality rates and cause-specific mortality fractions are presented according to WHO 2012 VA cause groups for neonatal, infant, 1–4 year and 5–14 year age groups.
A total of 28,751 childhood deaths were documented during 4,387,824 person-years over 18 sites. Infant mortality ranged from 11 to 78 per 1,000 live births, with under-5 mortality from 15 to 152 per 1,000 live births. Sites in Vietnam and Kenya accounted for the lowest and highest mortality rates reported.
Many children continue to die from relatively preventable causes, particularly in areas with high rates of malaria and HIV/AIDS. Neonatal mortality persists at relatively high, and perhaps sometimes under-documented, rates. External causes of death are a significant childhood problem in some settings.
PMCID: PMC4220125  PMID: 25377325
Childhood; Africa; Asia; mortality; INDEPTH Network; verbal autopsy; InterVA
13.  Cause-specific mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH health and demographic surveillance system sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25362.
Because most deaths in Africa and Asia are not well documented, estimates of mortality are often made using scanty data. The INDEPTH Network works to alleviate this problem by collating detailed individual data from defined Health and Demographic Surveillance sites. By registering all deaths over time and carrying out verbal autopsies to determine cause of death across many such sites, using standardised methods, the Network seeks to generate population-based mortality statistics that are not otherwise available.
To build a large standardised mortality database from African and Asian sites, detailing the relevant methods, and use it to describe cause-specific mortality patterns.
Individual demographic and verbal autopsy (VA) data from 22 INDEPTH sites were collated into a standardised database. The INDEPTH 2013 population was used for standardisation. The WHO 2012 VA standard and the InterVA-4 model were used for assigning cause of death.
A total of 111,910 deaths occurring over 12,204,043 person-years (accumulated between 1992 and 2012) were registered across the 22 sites, and for 98,429 of these deaths (88.0%) verbal autopsies were successfully completed. There was considerable variation in all-cause mortality between sites, with most of the differences being accounted for by variations in infectious causes as a proportion of all deaths.
This dataset documents individual deaths across Africa and Asia in a standardised way, and on an unprecedented scale. While INDEPTH sites are not constructed to constitute a representative sample, and VA may not be the ideal method of determining cause of death, nevertheless these findings represent detailed mortality patterns for parts of the world that are severely under-served in terms of measuring mortality. Further papers explore details of mortality patterns among children and specifically for NCDs, external causes, pregnancy-related mortality, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. Comparisons will also be made where possible with other findings on mortality in the same regions. Findings presented here and in accompanying papers support the need for continued work towards much wider implementation of universal civil registration of deaths by cause on a worldwide basis.
PMCID: PMC4220126  PMID: 25377324
mortality; cause of death; Africa; Asia; verbal autopsy; INDEPTH Network
14.  Who died of what in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: a cause of death analysis using InterVA-4 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25496.
For public health purposes, it is important to see whether men and women in different age groups die of the same causes in South Africa.
We explored sex- and age-specific patterns of causes of deaths in a rural demographic surveillance site in northern KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa over the period 2000–2011.
Deaths reported through the demographic surveillance were followed up by a verbal autopsy (VA) interview using a standardised questionnaire. Causes of death were assigned likelihoods using the publicly available tool InterVA-4. Cause-specific mortality fractions were determined by age and sex.
Over the study period, a total of 5,416 (47%) and 6,081 (53%) deaths were recorded in men and women, respectively. Major causes of death proportionally affecting more women than men were (all p<0.0001): human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS) (20.1% vs. 13.6%), other and unspecified cardiac disease (5.9% vs. 3.2%), stroke (4.5% vs. 2.7%), reproductive neoplasms (1.7% vs. 0.4%), diabetes (2.4% vs. 1.2%), and breast neoplasms (0.4% vs. 0%). Major causes of deaths proportionally affecting more men than women were (all p<0.0001) assault (6.1% vs. 1.7%), pulmonary tuberculosis (34.5% vs. 30.2%), road traffic accidents (3.0% vs. 1.0%), intentional self-harm (1.3% vs. 0.3%), and respiratory neoplasms (2.5% vs. 1.5%). Causes of death due to communicable diseases predominated in all age groups except in older persons.
While mortality during the 2000s was dominated by tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, we found substantial sex-specific differences both for communicable and non-communicable causes of death, some which can be explained by a differing sex-specific age structure. InterVA-4 is likely to be a valuable tool for investigating causes of death patterns in other similar Southern African settings.
PMCID: PMC4220127  PMID: 25377332
mortality; cause of death; demographic surveillance; South Africa; HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; verbal autopsy
15.  Adult non-communicable disease mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25365.
Mortality from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) is a major global issue, as other categories of mortality have diminished and life expectancy has increased. The World Health Organization's Member States have called for a 25% reduction in premature NCD mortality by 2025, which can only be achieved by substantial reductions in risk factors and improvements in the management of chronic conditions. A high burden of NCD mortality among much older people, who have survived other hazards, is inevitable. The INDEPTH Network collects detailed individual data within defined Health and Demographic Surveillance sites. By registering deaths and carrying out verbal autopsies to determine cause of death across many such sites, using standardised methods, the Network seeks to generate population-based mortality statistics that are not otherwise available.
To describe patterns of adult NCD mortality from INDEPTH Network sites across Africa and Asia, according to the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy (VA) cause categories, with separate consideration of premature (15–64 years) and older (65+ years) NCD mortality.
All adult deaths at INDEPTH sites are routinely registered and followed up with VA interviews. For this study, VA archives were transformed into the WHO 2012 VA standard format and processed using the InterVA-4 model to assign cause of death. Routine surveillance data also provide person-time denominators for mortality rates.
A total of 80,726 adult (over 15 years) deaths were documented over 7,423,497 person-years of observation. NCDs were attributed as the cause for 35.6% of these deaths. Slightly less than half of adult NCD deaths occurred in the 15–64 age group. Detailed results are presented by age and sex for leading causes of NCD mortality. Per-site rates of NCD mortality were significantly correlated with rates of HIV/AIDS-related mortality.
These findings present important evidence on the distribution of NCD mortality across a wide range of African and Asian settings. This comes against a background of global concern about the burden of NCD mortality, especially among adults aged under 70, and provides an important baseline for future work.
PMCID: PMC4220128  PMID: 25377326
adults; non-communicable disease; Africa; Asia; mortality; INDEPTH Network; verbal autopsy; InterVA
16.  Malaria mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH health and demographic surveillance system sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25369.
Malaria continues to be a major cause of infectious disease mortality in tropical regions. However, deaths from malaria are most often not individually documented, and as a result overall understanding of malaria epidemiology is inadequate. INDEPTH Network members maintain population surveillance in Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites across Africa and Asia, in which individual deaths are followed up with verbal autopsies.
To present patterns of malaria mortality determined by verbal autopsy from INDEPTH sites across Africa and Asia, comparing these findings with other relevant information on malaria in the same regions.
From a database covering 111,910 deaths over 12,204,043 person-years in 22 sites, in which verbal autopsy data were handled according to the WHO 2012 standard and processed using the InterVA-4 model, over 6,000 deaths were attributed to malaria. The overall period covered was 1992–2012, but two-thirds of the observations related to 2006–2012. These deaths were analysed by site, time period, age group and sex to investigate epidemiological differences in malaria mortality.
Rates of malaria mortality varied by 1:10,000 across the sites, with generally low rates in Asia (one site recording no malaria deaths over 0.5 million person-years) and some of the highest rates in West Africa (Nouna, Burkina Faso: 2.47 per 1,000 person-years). Childhood malaria mortality rates were strongly correlated with Malaria Atlas Project estimates of Plasmodium falciparum parasite rates for the same locations. Adult malaria mortality rates, while lower than corresponding childhood rates, were strongly correlated with childhood rates at the site level.
The wide variations observed in malaria mortality, which were nevertheless consistent with various other estimates, suggest that population-based registration of deaths using verbal autopsy is a useful approach to understanding the details of malaria epidemiology.
PMCID: PMC4220130  PMID: 25377329
malaria; Africa; Asia; mortality; INDEPTH Network; verbal autopsy; InterVA
17.  HIV/AIDS-related mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH health and demographic surveillance system sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25370.
As the HIV/AIDS pandemic has evolved over recent decades, Africa has been the most affected region, even though a large proportion of HIV/AIDS deaths have not been documented at the individual level. Systematic application of verbal autopsy (VA) methods in defined populations provides an opportunity to assess the mortality burden of the pandemic from individual data.
To present standardised comparisons of HIV/AIDS-related mortality at sites across Africa and Asia, including closely related causes of death such as pulmonary tuberculosis (PTB) and pneumonia.
Deaths related to HIV/AIDS were extracted from individual demographic and VA data from 22 INDEPTH sites across Africa and Asia. VA data were standardised to WHO 2012 standard causes of death assigned using the InterVA-4 model. Between-site comparisons of mortality rates were standardised using the INDEPTH 2013 standard population.
The dataset covered a total of 10,773 deaths attributed to HIV/AIDS, observed over 12,204,043 person-years. HIV/AIDS-related mortality fractions and mortality rates varied widely across Africa and Asia, with highest burdens in eastern and southern Africa, and lowest burdens in Asia. There was evidence of rapidly declining rates at the sites with the heaviest burdens. HIV/AIDS mortality was also strongly related to PTB mortality. On a country basis, there were strong similarities between HIV/AIDS mortality rates at INDEPTH sites and those derived from modelled estimates.
Measuring HIV/AIDS-related mortality continues to be a challenging issue, all the more so as anti-retroviral treatment programmes alleviate mortality risks. The congruence between these results and other estimates adds plausibility to both approaches. These data, covering some of the highest mortality observed during the pandemic, will be an important baseline for understanding the future decline of HIV/AIDS.
PMCID: PMC4220131  PMID: 25377330
HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; Africa; Asia; Mortality; INDEPTH Network; Verbal Autopsy; InterVA
18.  Cause-specific mortality at INDEPTH Health and Demographic Surveillance System Sites in Africa and Asia: concluding synthesis 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25590.
This synthesis brings together findings on cause-specific mortality documented by means of verbal autopsies applied to over 110,000 deaths across Africa and Asia, within INDEPTH Network sites.
Developments in computerised methods to assign causes of death on the basis of data from verbal autopsy (VA) interviews have made possible these standardised analyses of over 110,000 deaths from 22 African and Asian Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites in the INDEPTH Network. In addition to previous validations of the InterVA-4 probabilistic model, these wide-ranging analyses provide further evidence of the applicability of this approach to assigning the cause of death. Plausible comparisons with existing knowledge of disease patterns, as well as substantial correlations with out-of-model parameters such as time period, country, and other independent data sources were observed.
Substantial variations in mortality between sites, and in some cases within countries, were observed. A number of the mortality burdens revealed clearly constitute grounds for public health actions. At an overall level, these included high maternal and neonatal mortality rates. More specific examples were childhood drowning in Bangladesh and homicide among adult males in eastern and southern Africa. Mortality from non-communicable diseases, particularly in younger adulthood, is an emerging cause for concern. INDEPTH’s approach of documenting all deaths in particular populations, and successfully assigning causes to the majority, is important for formulating health policies.
Future directions
The pooled dataset underlying these analyses is available at the INDEPTH Data Repository for further analysis. INDEPTH will continue to fill cause-specific mortality knowledge gaps across Africa and Asia, which will also serve as a baseline for post-2015 development goals. The more widespread use of similar VA methods within routine civil registration systems is likely to become an important medium-term strategy in many countries.
PMCID: PMC4220138  PMID: 25377341
mortality; cause of death; Africa; Asia; verbal autopsy; INDEPTH Network
19.  Pregnancy-related mortality in Africa and Asia: evidence from INDEPTH Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25368.
Women continue to die in unacceptably large numbers around the world as a result of pregnancy, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Part of the problem is a lack of accurate, population-based information characterising the issues and informing solutions. Population surveillance sites, such as those operated within the INDEPTH Network, have the potential to contribute to bridging the information gaps.
To describe patterns of pregnancy-related mortality at INDEPTH Network Health and Demographic Surveillance System sites in sub-Saharan Africa and southeast Asia in terms of maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and cause-specific mortality rates.
Data on individual deaths among women of reproductive age (WRA) (15–49) resident in INDEPTH sites were collated into a standardised database using the INDEPTH 2013 population standard, the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy (VA) standard, and the InterVA model for assigning cause of death.
These analyses are based on reports from 14 INDEPTH sites, covering 14,198 deaths among WRA over 2,595,605 person-years observed. MMRs varied between 128 and 461 per 100,000 live births, while maternal mortality rates ranged from 0.11 to 0.74 per 1,000 person-years. Detailed rates per cause are tabulated, including analyses of direct maternal, indirect maternal, and incidental pregnancy-related deaths across the 14 sites.
As expected, these findings confirmed unacceptably high continuing levels of maternal mortality. However, they also demonstrate the effectiveness of INDEPTH sites and of the VA methods applied to arrive at measurements of maternal mortality that are essential for planning effective solutions and monitoring programmatic impacts.
PMCID: PMC4220143  PMID: 25377328
maternal mortality; cause of death; Africa; Asia; verbal autopsy; INDEPTH Network
20.  Causes of death among persons of all ages within the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System, Kenya, determined from verbal autopsies interpreted using the InterVA-4 model 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25593.
The vast majority of deaths in the Kilifi study area are not recorded through official systems of vital registration. As a result, few data are available regarding causes of death in this population.
To describe the causes of death (CODs) among residents of all ages within the Kilifi Health and Demographic Surveillance System (KHDSS) on the coast of Kenya.
Verbal autopsies (VAs) were conducted using the 2007 World Health Organization (WHO) standard VA questionnaires, and VA data further transformed to align with the 2012 WHO VA instrument. CODs were then determined using the InterVA-4 computer-based probabilistic model.
Five thousand one hundred and eighty seven deaths were recorded between January 2008 and December 2011. VA interviews were completed for 4,460 (86%) deaths. Neonatal pneumonia and birth asphyxia were the main CODs in neonates; pneumonia and malaria were the main CODs among infants and children aged 1–4, respectively, while HIV/AIDS was the main COD for adult women of reproductive age. Road traffic accidents were more commonly observed among men than women. Stroke and neoplasms were common CODs among the elderly over the age of 65.
We have established the main CODs among people of all ages within the area served by the KHDSS on the coast of Kenya using the 2007 WHO VA questionnaire coded using InterVA-4. We hope that our data will allow local health planners to estimate the burden of various diseases and to allocate their limited resources more appropriately.
PMCID: PMC4220144  PMID: 25377342
verbal autopsy; InterVA-4; cause-specific mortality fraction; Kenya
21.  Two decades of mortality change in rural northeast South Africa 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25596.
The MRC/Wits University Agincourt research centre, part of the INDEPTH Network, has documented mortality in a defined population in the rural northeast of South Africa for 20 years (1992–2011) using long-term health and socio-demographic surveillance. Detail on the unfolding, at times unpredicted, mortality pattern has been published. This experience is reviewed here and updated using more recent data.
To present a review and summary of mortality patterns across all age-sex groups in the Agincourt sub-district population for the period 1992–2011 as a comprehensive basis for public health action.
Vital events in the Agincourt population have been updated in annual surveys undertaken since 1992. All deaths have been rigorously recorded and followed by verbal autopsy interviews. Responses to questions from these interviews have been processed retrospectively using the WHO 2012 verbal autopsy standard and the InterVA-4 model for assigning causes of death in a standardised manner.
Between 1992 and 2011, a total of 12,209 deaths were registered over 1,436,195 person-years of follow-up, giving a crude mortality rate of 8.5 per 1,000 person-years. During the 20-year period, the population experienced a major HIV epidemic, which resulted in more than doubling of overall mortality for an extended period. Recent years show signs of declining mortality, but levels remain above the 1992 baseline recorded using the surveillance system.
The Agincourt population has experienced a major mortality shock over the past two decades from which it will take time to recover. The basic epidemic patterns are consistent with generalised mortality patterns observed in South Africa as a whole, but the detailed individual surveillance behind these analyses allows finer-grained analyses of specific causes, age-related risks, and trends over time. These demonstrate the complex, somewhat unpredicted course of mortality transition over the years since the dawn of South Africa's democratic era in 1994.
PMCID: PMC4220148  PMID: 25377343
Africa; Agincourt; rural; mortality; HIV/AIDS; tuberculosis; INDEPTH Network; verbal autopsy; InterVA; non-communicable diseases
22.  Assessing the impact of mHealth interventions in low- and middle-income countries – what has been shown to work? 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25606.
Low-cost mobile devices, such as mobile phones, tablets, and personal digital assistants, which can access voice and data services, have revolutionised access to information and communication technology worldwide. These devices have a major impact on many aspects of people's lives, from business and education to health. This paper reviews the current evidence on the specific impacts of mobile technologies on tangible health outcomes (mHealth) in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), from the perspectives of various stakeholders.
Comprehensive literature searches were undertaken using key medical subject heading search terms on PubMed, Google Scholar, and grey literature sources. Analysis of 676 publications retrieved from the search was undertaken based on key inclusion criteria, resulting in a set of 76 papers for detailed review. The impacts of mHealth interventions reported in these papers were categorised into common mHealth applications.
There is a growing evidence base for the efficacy of mHealth interventions in LMICs, particularly in improving treatment adherence, appointment compliance, data gathering, and developing support networks for health workers. However, the quantity and quality of the evidence is still limited in many respects.
Over all application areas, there remains a need to take small pilot studies to full scale, enabling more rigorous experimental and quasi-experimental studies to be undertaken in order to strengthen the evidence base.
PMCID: PMC4216389  PMID: 25361730
mHealth; low- and middle-income countries; health systems; interventions; mobile data
23.  The global burden of liver disease: a challenge for methods and for public health 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:159.
New Global Burden of Disease estimates for liver cirrhosis, published in BMC Medicine, suggest that cirrhosis caused over a million deaths in 2010, with a further million due to liver cancer and acute hepatitis. Cause-specific mortality data were very sparse for some regions, particularly in Africa, with no relevant mortality data for 58/187 countries. Liver disease involves infectious, malignant and chronic aetiologies with overlapping symptoms. Where available mortality data come from verbal autopsies, separating different types of liver disease is challenging.
Cirrhosis is a disease of rich and poor alike; key public health risk factors such as alcohol consumption play an important role. Risk-reduction strategies such as controlling the price of alcohol are being widely discussed. Since these estimates used alcohol consumption as a covariate, they cannot be used to explore relationships between alcohol consumption and cirrhosis mortality.
There is hope: coming generations of adults will have been vaccinated against hepatitis B, and this is envisaged to reduce the burden of fatal liver disease. But more complete civil registration globally is needed to fully understand the burden of liver disease.
Please see related article:
PMCID: PMC4168048  PMID: 25286285
Liver disease; Cirrhosis; Mortality; Verbal autopsy; Alcohol consumption; Hepatitis; Global estimates; Vaccination; Risk factors; Civil registration
24.  Undertaking cause-specific mortality measurement in an unregistered population: an example from Tigray Region, Ethiopia 
Global Health Action  2014;7:10.3402/gha.v7.25264.
The lack of adequate documentation of deaths, and particularly their cause, is often noted in African and Asian settings, but practical solutions for addressing the problem are not always clear. Verbal autopsy methods (interviewing witnesses after a death) have developed rapidly, but there remains a lack of clarity as to how these methods can be effectively applied to large unregistered populations. This paper sets out practical details for undertaking a representative survey of cause-specific mortality in a population of several million, taking Tigray Region in Ethiopia as a prototype.
Sampling was designed around an expected level of maternal mortality ratio of 400 per 100,000 live births, which needed measuring within a 95% confidence interval of approximately ±100. Taking a stratified cluster sample within the region at the district level for logistic reasons, and allowing for a design effect of 2, this required a population of around 900,000 people, equating to six typical districts. Since the region is administered in six geographic zones, one district per zone was randomly selected.
The survey was implemented as a two-stage process: first, to trace deaths that occurred in the sampled districts within the preceding year, and second to follow them up with verbal autopsy interviews. The field work for both stages was undertaken by health extension workers, working in their normally assigned areas. Most of the work was associated with tracing the deaths, rather than undertaking the verbal autopsy interviews.
This approach to measuring cause-specific mortality in an unregistered Ethiopian population proved to be feasible and effective. Although it falls short of the ideal situation of continuous civil registration and vital statistics, a survey-based strategy of this kind may prove to be a useful intermediate step on the road towards full civil registration and vital statistics implementation.
PMCID: PMC4162981  PMID: 25217254
Ethiopia; mortality; verbal autopsy; population survey; civil registration and vital statistics; evidence-based decision making
25.  Age-Specific Malaria Mortality Rates in the KEMRI/CDC Health and Demographic Surveillance System in Western Kenya, 2003–2010 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106197.
Recent global malaria burden modeling efforts have produced significantly different estimates, particularly in adult malaria mortality. To measure malaria control progress, accurate malaria burden estimates across age groups are necessary. We determined age-specific malaria mortality rates in western Kenya to compare with recent global estimates. We collected data from 148,000 persons in a health and demographic surveillance system from 2003–2010. Standardized verbal autopsies were conducted for all deaths; probable cause of death was assigned using the InterVA-4 model. Annual malaria mortality rates per 1,000 person-years were generated by age group. Trends were analyzed using Poisson regression. From 2003–2010, in children <5 years the malaria mortality rate decreased from 13.2 to 3.7 per 1,000 person-years; the declines were greatest in the first three years of life. In children 5–14 years, the malaria mortality rate remained stable at 0.5 per 1,000 person-years. In persons ≥15 years, the malaria mortality rate decreased from 1.5 to 0.4 per 1,000 person-years. The malaria mortality rates in young children and persons aged ≥15 years decreased dramatically from 2003–2010 in western Kenya, but rates in older children have not declined. Sharp declines in some age groups likely reflect the national scale up of malaria control interventions and rapid expansion of HIV prevention services. These data highlight the importance of age-specific malaria mortality ascertainment and support current strategies to include all age groups in malaria control interventions.
PMCID: PMC4152016  PMID: 25180495

Results 1-25 (104)