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WHO Mortality Database: Previous page | 1,2,3

:: WHO Mortality Database: Tables

Updating the database and Querying about the database

Member states submit data

WHO contacts Member States directly on a routine basis to obtain latest cause of death data from their vital registration sources. Data submitted by Member states become part of WHO's unique historical data base on causes of death, which contains data as far back as 1950. Computerization of data at country level and electronic transmission to WHO have considerably improved the timeliness of information received.

From print to the web

WHO started the publication of cause of death statistics in 1948 in the annual editions of the Annual Epidemiological and Vital Statistics. The 1962 and subsequent editions were renamed as the World Health Statistics Annual. The 1996 edition was the last to appear in printed form. With the advent of new technology, mortality statistics have been provided on this Web site since July 2000 and include all data received since the 1996 edition of the World Health Statistics Annual. The current update features for the first time all the historical data as from 1979 to 2002 using ICD 9th and ICD 10th revision in the usual friendly user format. Regular updates to the WHO mortality database will be undertaken as data are received from Member States to ensure that the latest data are available.

Two classes of data: Country-reported and WHO estimate

The two classes of mortality information available on the WHO web site may be distinguished as follows. a) Mortality registration data reported by Member States (as described above) b) WHO estimated mortality data for 2000, 2001 and 2002 WHO itself uses the historical data from the mortality data base as a basis to derive WHO estimates of deaths by cause as published in Annex Tables to the World Health Report. More detailed tables for WHO estimates of total deaths by cause, age and sex for WHO regions and subregions may be downloaded from the website. (Insert link to the Burden of Disease web site) These estimates are sets of population age-specific mortality rates or numbers that are adjusted to make them comparable across populations. Comparability requires in addition the use of the same measurement scale (in this case classification of underlying cause). Adjustments with regard to incomplete coverage are made. Particular attention is also being paid to the problems of miscoding mainly for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, injuries and general ill-defined categories. Correction algorithms to resolve these miscoding problems have been developed and applied (Discussion Paper 54) (insert link to Burden of Disease web site). Trend data from countries with good vital registration system serve as a basis for validating projected estimates. WHO estimated mortality data is primarily intended for use by policy makers and analysts. As an international organization, information published by the WHO is frequently used for benchmarking, for advocacy of particular policies, for monitoring achievements towards internationally accepted goals and targets and to guide technical strategies and responses.


Most queries on the reported data can be answered on the basis of the data from this web site and from the yearly publication of data for earlier years in the World Health Statistics Annual. This publication can be consulted at most major libraries throughout the world.

WHO Mortality Database: 1,2,3

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