This study evaluates the collection and flow of mortality and cause-of-death (COD) data in Thailand, identifying areas of weakness and presenting potential approaches to improve these statistics. Methods include systems analysis, literature review, and the application of the Health Metrics Network (HMN) self-assessment tool by key stakeholders. We identified two weaknesses underlying incompleteness of death registration and inaccuracy of COD attribution: problems in recording events or certifying deaths, and problems in transferring information from death certificates to death registers. Deaths occurring outside health facilities, representing 65% of all deaths in Thailand, contribute to the inaccuracy of cause-of-death data because they must be certified by village heads with limited knowledge and expertise in cause-of-death attribution. However, problems also exist with in-hospital cause-of-death certification by physicians. Priority should be given to training medical personnel in death certification, review of medical records by health personnel in district hospitals, and use of verbal autopsy techniques for assessing internal consistency. This should be coupled with stronger collaboration with district registrars for the 65% of deaths that occur outside hospitals. Training of physicians and data coders and harmonization of death certificates and registries would improve COD data for the 35% of deaths that take place in hospital. Public awareness of the importance of registering all deaths and the application of registration requirements prior to funerals would also improve coverage, though enforcement would be difficult.
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