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Umeå University hosts new World Health Organization Collaborating Centre

The World Health Organization (WHO) has created a new Collaborating Centre at Ume University, Sweden, in the specialist area of verbal autopsy (VA).

Verbal autopsy (VA)is a widely used method in low- and middle-income countries for determining cause of death, when no doctor's certificate is available. It involves interviewing relatives or friends after a death has occurred, collecting data which can then be interpreted into likely causes of death. Work based at the Ume Centre for Global Health Research has placed Ume at the global forefront of research and development in VA methods, now recognised in the creation of the new WHO Collaborating Centre.

In particular, the Ume group has developed the InterVA suite of probabilistic models for reliably determining causes of death without needing doctors' time and expertise. This means that cause-specific mortality data can be made available much more quickly and cheaply. The work has involved considerable global collaboration, not only with WHO, but also with the INDEPTH Network, the University of Aberdeen, University College London and the University of the Witwatersrand, among others. Latest innovations include the development of a smartphone application which guides the VA interview process according to WHO guidelines and directly determines cause of death.

Prof. Peter Byass, Director of the new Collaborating Centre, said "Not everyone realises that reliably determining causes of death is an important strategy for saving lives! Health services can only be well-planned and managed if there is evidence about common causes of death in the populations they serve."

Prof. Lars Weinehall, Head of Public Health and Clinical Medicine at Ume University, said "We are delighted to have been designated as the new WHO Collaborating Centre for Verbal Autopsy. It reflects the world-leading calibre of our research on VA and we are excited about working with WHO globally to make a difference in population health. This will contribute directly to WHO's plans for Universal Health Coverage."

Contact: Peter Byass
Umea University

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