The complex and evolving picture of COVID-19–related mortality highlights the need for data to guide the response. Yet many countries are struggling to maintain their data systems, including the civil registration system, which is the foundation for detailed and continuously available mortality statistics. We conducted a search of country and development agency Web sites and partner and media reports describing disruptions to the civil registration of births and deaths associated with COVID-19 related restrictions. We found considerable intercountry variation and grouped countries according to the level of disruption to birth and particularly death registration. Only a minority of the 66 countries were able to maintain service continuity during the COVID-19 restrictions. In the majority, a combination of legal and operational challenges resulted in declines in birth and death registration. Few countries established business continuity plans or developed strategies to deal with the backlog when restrictions are lifted. Civil registration systems and the vital statistics they generate must be strengthened as essential services during health emergencies and as core components of the response to COVID-19. (Am J Public Health. Published online ahead of print April 15, 2021: e1–e9. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306203 )
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on government services in many areas, including Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS). However, the pandemic has also highlighted the importance of recording of mortality and causes of death, with some potentially positive impacts for longer term CRVS strengthening, including: (1) increasing online provision of registration services (2) reporting of mortality statistics from settings which had not previously done so (3) improved intersectoral cooperation, particularly with the health sector, improving the ability to record deaths and (4) increased awareness among governments and public of the importance of mortality statistics. Now, it is pressing for national governments, and international organizations working to strengthen CRVS systems, to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies adopted over the last year, and use lessons learnt to catalyse broader sustainable CRVS improvement strategies, providing governments with essential data on mortality and causes of death into the future.
Background Tonga is a South Pacific Island country with a population of 100,651 (2016 Census). This study examines Tongan infant mortality rates (IMR), under-five mortality rates (U5MR), adult mortality and life expectancy (LE) at birth from 2010 to 2018 using a recent collation of empirical mortality data over the past decade for comparison with other previously published mortality estimates. Methods Routinely collected mortality data for 2010–2018 from the Ministry of Health, national (Vaiola) hospital, community nursing reports, and the Civil Registry, were consolidated by deterministic and probabilistic linkage of individual death records. Completeness of empirical mortality reporting was assessed by capture-recapture analysis. The reconciled data were aggregated into triennia to reduce stochastic variation, and used to estimate IMR and U5MR (per 1000 live births), adult mortality (15–59, 15–34, 35–59, and 15–64 years), and LE at birth, employing the hypothetical cohort method (with statistical testing). Mortality trends and differences were assessed by Poisson regression. Mortality findings were compared with published national and international agency estimates. Results Over the three triennia in 2010–2018, levels varied minimally for IMR (12–14) and U5MR (15–19) per 1000 births (both ns, p > 0.05), and also for male LE at birth of 64–65 years, and female LE at birth 69–70 years. Cumulated risks of adult mortality were significantly higher in men than women; period mortality increases in 15–59-year women from 18 to 21% were significant (p < 0.05). Estimated completeness of the reconciled data was > 95%. International agencies reported generally comparable estimates of IMR and U5MR, with varying uncertainty intervals; but they reported significantly lower adult mortality and higher LE than the empirical estimates from this study. Conclusions Life expectancy in Tonga over 2010–2018 has remained relatively low and static, with low IMR and U5MR, indicating the substantial impact from premature adult mortality. This analysis of empirical data (> 95% complete) indicates lower LE and higher premature adult mortality than previously reported by international agencies using indirect and modelled methods. Continued integration of mortality recording and data systems in Tonga is important for improving the completeness and accuracy of mortality estimation for local health monitoring and planning.
Accurate and reliable death statistics produced by civil registration and vital statistics systems are essential for health planning and programme evaluation. The quality of death registration data in Pacific island countries and territories remains suboptimal. Data on deaths occurring at sea are especially limited. While coastal and oceanic activities are the norm and essential to the livelihoods of Pacific island populations, such activities pose risks for accidents at sea, especially those involving small-scale vessels. In this paper, the scale of deaths at sea associated with small vessels in three Pacific island countries or territories over the period 2008-2017 is investigated using data from the health, civil registry, and police and fisheries departments, and reports produced by national statistics offices, ministries of health, the Pacific Community, the World Health Organization and media sources. Data on deaths at sea were found to be fragmented among multiple sources and missing key information on age, sex, and cause. Standardized procedures for reporting deaths and accidents at sea and harmonized data sharing between local communities and government agencies are urgently needed to improve civil registration and vital statistics systems and sea safety in the Pacific island subregion.
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