A new World Health Organization (WHO) Mortality Database visualization portal has been released, reflecting key updates to modernize the user interface that give unparalleled insight, accessibility and relevance to seven decades of mortality data for policymakers and the public.
For over a century, global mortality and cause-of-death statistics have been crucial to track the impact of diseases on population health and measure the efficiency of health programmes and interventions in saving lives. COVID-19 excess mortality estimates are a stark reminder of how important it is to understand exactly how many people are dying and of what cause.
Since its founding in 1948, WHO has required all Member States to report mortality data and collected this information in the WHO Mortality Database. Today, this unique database is the oldest and largest of its kind, containing data from over 120 countries and areas by cause, year, sex, and age.
The portal is a significant step towards ensuring mortality data is used to drive impact in countries. Among other features, users can now filter and compare information by disease category or age group. They can also use interactive visualizations to view the data by number of deaths, death rates per 100 000, or as a percentage of total deaths.
By clearly illustrating gaps and trends, the database also enables users to identify how countries are performing in terms of inequalities over time. This provides powerful information to guide policies that reduce both within and between-country disparities in health outcomes.
“The WHO Mortality Database visualization portal is coming at a time when the world urgently needs better access to trusted, timely, and transparent mortality data,” says Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery at WHO. “We urge all stakeholders to use this portal to improve policy design and prevent premature deaths.”
Currently, the portal contains data representing 36% of all deaths in the world, with a range of 90% from the American and European Regions to less than 10% for the African and South-East Asian regions. Global initiatives are underway to support countries in improving their civil registration and vital statistics systems as key to generating accurate and timely cause-of-death information.
“By investing in modern, sustainable health information systems we can fill critical gaps and improve cause-of-death reporting in line with international classifications standards” adds Steve MacFeely, Director of Data and Analytics at WHO. “This is crucial to accurately track progress towards WHO’s Triple Billion targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
As of April 2022, cause-of-death data is presented using the 10th version of the International Classification of Diseases. However, efforts are underway to transition towards ICD-11, which came into effect as of 1 January 2022, as agreed by all Member States at the 72nd World Health Assembly in 2019.