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Reporting of global death statistics improving, UN agency reports

Content by: UN News Centre

17 May 2017 – An increasing amount of deaths have recorded causes, but more than half still have incomplete or incorrect information, the United Nations health agency reported.

“If countries don't know what makes people get sick and die, it's a lot harder to know what to do about it,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, UN World Health Organization's (WHO) Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation.

Of the estimated 56 million deaths globally in 2015, 27 million were registered with a cause of death, according to one of WHO's annual flagship publications, the

World Health Statistics . That figure is up from 2005, when only about one-third of deaths had a recorded cause.

Collecting vital statistics is also important in monitoring progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly the third SDG related to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for people of all ages.

The Governments of China, Turkey and Iraq are among those that have made “significant” strides towards strengthening their data collection, according to WHO.

Ninety per cent of deaths in those countries are now recorded with detailed cause-of-death information, as compared with five per cent in 1999.

However, “while the quality of health data has improved significantly in recent years, many countries still do not routinely collect high-quality data to monitor health-related SDG indicators,” the UN agency said.

In countries where such information is recorded, WHO found that essential health service coverage has improved since 2000, with greatest improvement in coverage of treatment for HIV and bed nets to prevent malaria.

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