How useful are verbal autopsies to estimate childhood causes of death?

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Verbal autopsies are widely used to describe the causes of death in individuals who die outside of hospital or clinic settings, but are seldom validated. The technique assumes that disease which cause death can be easily distinguished from one another by distinct syndromes and that these are reported accurately by lay respondents. The article describes the potential problems of syndrome definition and the likely biases from poor recognition and recall by bereaved relatives; how these might be tested and what can be done when verbal autopsy cannot identify the cause of death.

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Health Policy and Planning: a journal on health in development
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