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Scandal of invisibility plagues countries with no civil registries
Date:10/29/2007

Most people in Africa and Asia are born and die without leaving a trace in any official records, giving policymakers and researchers little information on which to base public health decisions, a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher and colleagues say in a paper published today (Oct. 29, 2007) in the British medical journal The Lancet.

However, affordable solutions exist to collect these vital statistics and must be implemented urgently to end what the study authors call a scandal of invisibility.

In the lead paper of The Lancets Who Counts series, produced in collaboration with the Health Metrics Network based at the World Health Organization, Philip Setel, Ph. D., and colleagues analyze the lack or inadequacy of civil registration systems for counting births, deaths and causes of death. Without these statistics, Setel said, officials can make only educated guesses based on models about the numbers of deaths due to various causes in their populations.

In their Lancet paper, titled A Scandal of Invisibility: Making Everyone Count by Counting Everyone, Setel, a research professor of epidemiology in UNCs School of Public Health, says that over the past 30 years there has been a persistent failure to establish, support and sustain civil registries and to ensure that causes of death are accurately known in the worlds poorest countries.

In sub-Saharan Africa fewer than 10 countries have routine vital statistics systems that produce usable data, and mortality data is 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.

International donors, including the United States, spent more than $80 billion in 2004 on overseas medical aid, yet there is no conclusive evidence that this money is making a difference in preventing deaths, including those from AIDS,
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Contact: Clinton Colmenares
clinton_colmenares@unc.edu
919-843-1991
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Source:Eurekalert

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