Health statistics and information systems

Verbal autopsy standards: ascertaining and attributing causes of death

The 2016 WHO verbal autopsy instrument

The 2016 version of the WHO verbal autopsy instrument is suitable for routine use. The instrument is designed for all age groups, including maternal and perinatal deaths, and also deaths caused by injuries.

Based on the 2012 instrument, and the 2014 version, questions have been added or edited to facilitate the use of publicly available analytical software for assigning the cause of death (SmartVA, InterVA, InSilicoVA). Edits to formulation of questions and the skip pattern have been informed by field testing and cognitive reviews of the 2012 instrument, and field work with the 2014 instrument.

An additional review now ensures for full compatibility with SmartVA and InterVA input requirements. A conversion algorithm transforms the output of the WHO VA 2016 questionnaire in files that can be processed by SmartVA and InterVA, and InSilicoVA.

Updates have been made to the initial 2016 version after field testing to address incorrect or inconsistent skip patterns; augment the electronic data collection platform using constraints, range, and logic checks, and adding automated skips for sub-age patterns where relevant; and to optimize the field experience for interviewers and respondents.
Note: Paper forms for the final version of the 2016 WHO VA questionnaires will be published in mid-December 2017.

The WHO verbal autopsy (VA) working group

A WHO VA working group was established at the first meeting of the WHO Reference Group on Global Health Statistics, 9–10 December 2013. This group is chaired by Daniel Chandramohan of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It brings together experts in this field, and it has agreed upon the WHO verbal autopsy Instrument 2016 for data collection in countries, based on the recent experiences. This instrument will be the basis for multiple analytical methods including physician-based diagnosis, InterVA, Tariff and others. The group will further address data sharing, the development of standardized data sets, methods for validation of verbal autopsy analysis, and reference definitions for causes of death of interest to ensure consistency with ICD classification rules.

Try the online 2016 WHO verbal autopsy instrument

Download the 2016 instrument

The tool will be reviewed in 2020, based on users’ feedback and further evidence from the field. The users are asked to share the information collected in their verbal autopsy in a way that allows assessment of validity and feasibility of the questions in the field.

In order to facilitate its dissemination, translators are asked to share their translated files for reuse in the same language region.


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