Article abstract

Reliable data on the cause of child death is the cornerstone for evidence-informed health policy making towards improving child health outcomes. Unfortunately, accurate data on cause of death is essentially lacking in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa due to the widespread absence of functional Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) systems. To address this problem, verbal autopsy (VA) has gained prominence as a strategy for obtaining Cause of Death (COD) information in populations where CRVS are absent. This study reviewed publications that investigated the validation of VA methods for assessment of COD. A MEDLINE PubMed search was undertaken in June 2018 for studies published in English that investigated the validation of VA methods in sub-Saharan Africa from 1990-2018. Of the 17 studies identified, 9 fulfilled the study inclusion criteria from which additional five relevant studies were found by reviewing their references. The result showed that Physician-Certified Verbal Autopsy (PCVA) was the most widely used VA method. Validation studies comparing PCVA to hospital records, expert algorithm and InterVA demonstrated mixed and highly varied outcomes. The accuracy and reliability of the VA methods depended on level of healthcare the respondents have access to and the knowledge of the physicians on the local disease aetiology and epidemiology. As the countries in sub-Saharan Africa continue to battle with dysfunctional CRVS system, VA will remain the only viable option for the supply of child mortality data necessary for policy making.