Death study conducted

Health Watch, Normal

The National, Thursday July 18th, 2013

 THE Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research (PNGIMR) is conducting a Verbal Autopsy (VA) research to establish causes and the number of deaths outside hospitals.

This month’s PNGIMR Newsletter highlighted the importance of deaths and births registration information, saying they were vital for assessing the health and mortality trends in populations and essential for planning appropriate health interventions.

“Without such basic information, a country has very little information to base decisions about resource allocation and the provision of health services,” the newsletter says.

“In PNG, only hospital deaths are used for the official Cause of Death (COD) statistics, however, hospital deaths are a biased sample of the population deaths.” 

It said most people in the country did not die in hospitals. The final figure would be completely different as it may be that elderly members of the community were less likely to die in hospitals.

“Hospital deaths, therefore, do not reflect the trends and patterns of deaths in the whole population, and  death records are often poorly managed at major hospitals and health facilities due to lack of adequate infrastructure and skilled manpower.

“Death certificates are rarely filled in and the causes of deaths are often incorrectly reflected on the record,” the newsletter says. 

In the absence of a strong registration system, an alternative way to examine the causes of deaths among members of a population is by using a tool called Verbal Autopsy (VA). 

Causes of deaths outside of health facilities remain unaccounted for proper analysis until a VA, which consists of structured interviews with people closest to the deceased and who know the most about the signs and symptoms the deceased suffered before deaths are revealed. 

The newsletter said the ideally selected respondent must be present during death or illness that led to death.

“Once completed, the questionnaire can be analysed by doctors or by computer-based analysis programmes and the information can be used to determine the most likely cause of deaths.

“At PNGIMR our researchers are conducting a VA study in four sites of Hiri West (Central), Hides (Southern Highlands), Karkar (Madang) and Asaro (Eastern Highlands) to better understand the different mortality trends in the population.”