Student Expedition to the Institute of Global Health at University College London, October 2016
Improving data improving health: Verbal Autopsy for health system strengthening: student reflections from the Engaging in Global Health initiative
Christiana Ekezie, Christiantus Ochi and Maeve Coyle travelled to the Institute for Global Health at University College London in October to participate in a global meeting on people, partnership and data for health systems strengthening led by the Centre for Global Development at the University of Aberdeen.
Our students engaged with speakers from the Information, Evidence and Research Unit at WHO, the Umeå WHO Collaborating Centre for VA, the Malaria Consortium, the Africa Health Research Institute, University College London Institute for Global Health and Lancet Global Health.
Here are their reflections on, and some images from, the visit:
In the course of our study, we have learnt that millions of people die annually and most of these deaths are unreported and recorded and the majority occur in Africa and Asia. We have also come to understand that this lack of information is because most of the deaths occur outside health facilities.
This conference was therefore a great learning experience for us as we listened to speakers who examined the success of Verbal Autopsy (VA) since its introduction as a method of researching mortality in the 90’s. They believe that it is the only pragmatic approach to determine the cause of death for people who die outside health facilities especially in this SDG era. One of the success stories of VA as a way of improving data is the introduction of automated methods of interpreting data from VA using mobile devices (InterVA, MIVA). We were also intrigued with the idea of Social Autopsies (SAs) which examines the social determinants of mortality using the 3-Delay model to complement the information on the medical causes of mortality.
In addition to the above, Verbal Autopsy and Participatory Action Research (VAPAR) was also proffered as a way of getting community participation in research. According to the last speaker, the overall goal is to move VA from a health surveillance system to a more applicable system by making data available to policy makers and the larger community.
In the end, we learnt that a multi-disciplinary approach using methods such as VA, SA and VAPAR maybe the more pragmatic way to provide data necessary for better evaluation and broader health systems strengthening.
Dr Christiana Ekezie, Ms Maeve Coyle and Mr Christiantus Ochi at UCL
Dr Christiana Ekezie, Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso, Mr Christiantus Ochi and Ms Maeve Coyle at UCL
Dr Lucia D’Ambruoso presented research developing contextualised approaches to Verbal Autopsy
Dr Ed Fottrell presetned approaches to scaling up Verbal Autopsy in low and middle income countries