- Open Access
- Open Peer Review
Verbal autopsy: who needs it?
© AbouZahr; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2011
- Received: 13 April 2011
- Accepted: 27 July 2011
- Published: 27 July 2011
- Potential User
- Verbal Autopsy
- Data Collection Instrument
- National Statistic Office
- Avoidable Mortality
Given the variety of users and uses, it is legitimate to ask whether a single data collection instrument can respond to all user demands . However, it would be a retrograde step to revert to a situation characterized by the coexistence of multiple, divergent tools. Instead, the research community should focus on developing methods that are aligned with core standards but can be implemented through modular approaches, adapted to local circumstances and information needs. In doing so, it is important to reflect on the potential of extending the current WHO verbal autopsy standards to incorporate socio-economic, community, behavioral, and health system determinants of mortality.
For verbal autopsy methods to successfully extend their reach from research to routine application, a solid standards-based foundation will be essential, but so will a degree of flexibility and responsiveness to user requirements. New challenges will emerge, many of which will require local-level operations and implementation research to resolve. Building the evidence base of what works and where will be critical for demonstrating to potential users that the techniques can indeed generate data that are both robust and fit for purpose. This implies rigorous validation to ensure that the data generated are reliable and scientifically sound, coupled with testing of the instruments for feasibility, sustainability, and local relevance. Both sets of criteria will need to be met if the results of verbal autopsy are to be used effectively to inform policies and programming.
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