Africa, Asia Must Collect Vital Statistics

Without statistics officials can offer only educated guesses

U.S. researchers said there’s an urgent need to begin collecting vital statistics in Africa and Asia, where most people are born and die without any records.

The study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found the absence of such vital statistics gives policymakers and researchers little information on which to base public health decisions.

But research Professor Philip Setel and colleagues who analyzed the lack of efficient civil registration systems said affordable solutions exist to end what they call a scandal of invisibility.” Without civil statistics, Setel said, officials can offer only educated guesses about the numbers of deaths due to various causes.

“In sub-Saharan Africa fewer than 10 countries have routine vital statistics systems that produce usable data, and mortality data are reported from only four,” Setel said. “Reliable data on levels of adult death — let alone causes of death — simply do not exist for most countries in Africa and Asia, where a large majority of deaths occur at home.”

The research appears in the British medical journal The Lancet.

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