Verbal autopsy: an analysis of the common causes of childhood death in the Barekese sub-district of Ghana

Submitted: 10 March 2011
Accepted: 24 April 2011
Published: 13 May 2011
Abstract Views: 1873
PDF: 774
HTML: 4767
Publisher's note
All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


The availability of mortality data for any society plays an essential role in health monitoring and evaluation, as well as in the design of health interventions. However, most resource-poor countries such as Ghana have no reliable vital registration system. In these instances, verbal autopsy (VA) may be used as an alternative method to gather mortality data. In rural Ghana, the research team utilized a VA questionnaire to interview caretakers who were present with a child under the age of five prior to death. The data was given to two physicians who independently assigned the most probable cause of death for the child. A third, blinded physician analyzed the data in the cases where the first two physicians disagreed. When there was agreement between physicians, this was assigned as the cause of death for the individual child. During the study period, we recorded 118 deaths from 92 households. Twenty-nine (24.6%) were neonatal deaths with the leading causes of death being neonatal sepsis, birth asphyxia and pneumonia. The remaining 89 (75.4%) were post-neonatal deaths with the most common causes of death being pneumonia, malaria and malnutrition. While 63/118 (53.4%) deaths occurred in the home, there is no statistically significant relationship between the location of the home and the time of travel to the nearest health facility (P=0.132). VA is an important epidemiological tool for obtaining mortality data in communities that lack reliable vital registration systems. Improvement in health care is necessary to address the large number of deaths occurring in the home.

Stephen Manortey, University of Utah

Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

PhD-Candidate in Public Health.

Adrienne Carey, University of Utah

University of Utah School of Medicine.

2nd Year Medical Student.

Daniel Ansong, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science & Technology; Kumasi, Ghana.

Department of Child Health, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital.


Ryan Harvey, University of Utah

College of Nursing.

Final Year-Nursing Student.

Brian Good, University of Utah

Department of Pediatrics.

MD; Assistant Professor.


Joseph Boaheng, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital

Research and Development Unit, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital; Kumasi, Ghana.

MPhil, BSc

Benjamin Crookston, University of Utah

Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

PhD, MPH; Assistant Professor.

Ty Dickerson, University of Utah

Department of Pediatrics.

MD, MPH; Associate Professor.

Manortey, S., Carey, A., Ansong, D., Harvey, R., Good, B., Boaheng, J., Crookston, B., & Dickerson, T. (2011). Verbal autopsy: an analysis of the common causes of childhood death in the Barekese sub-district of Ghana. Journal of Public Health in Africa, 2(2), e18.


Download data is not yet available.