Verbal/social autopsy analysis of causes and determinants of under-5 mortality in Tanzania from 2010 to 2016

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Background Tanzania has decreased its child mortality rate by more than 70 percent in the last three decades and is striving to develop a nationally-representative sample registration system with verbal autopsy to help focus health policies and programs toward further reduction. As an interim measure, a verbal and social autopsy study was conducted to provide vital information on the causes and social determinants of neonatal and child deaths. Methods Causes of neonatal and 1-59 month-old deaths identified by the 2015-16 Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey were assessed using the expert algorithm verbal autopsy method. The social autopsy examined prevalence of key household, community and health system indicators of preventive and curative care provided along the continuum of care and Pathway to Survival models. Careseeking for neonates and 1-59 month-olds was compared, and tests of associations of age and cause of death to careseeking indicators and place of death were conducted. Results The most common causes of death of 228 neonates and 351 1-59 month-olds, respectively, were severe infection, intrapartum related events and preterm delivery, and pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. Coverage of early initiation of breastfeeding (24%), hygienic cord care (29%), and full immunization of 12-59 month-olds (33%) was problematic. Most (88.8%) neonates died in the first week, including 44.3% in their birth facility before leaving. Formal care was sought for just 41.9% of newborns whose illness started at home and was delayed by 5.3 days for 1-59 month-olds who sought informal care. Care was less likely to be sought for the youngest neonates and infants and severely ill children. Although 70.3% of 233 under-5 year-olds were moderately or severely ill on discharge from their first provider, only 29.0%-31.2% were referred. Conclusions The study highlights needed actions to complete Tanzania's child survival agenda. Low levels of some preventive interventions need to be addressed. The high rate of facility births and neonatal deaths requires strengthening of institutionally-based interventions targeting maternal labor and delivery complications and neonatal causes of death.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number020901
JournalJournal of global health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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