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A review of the structure and function of vital registration system in Ghana: towards improvement in mortality data quality for health policy analysis

Julius N. Fobil, Eunice Aryee, Francis Bilson, Juergen May, Alexander Kraemer
  • Eunice Aryee
    University of Ghana, Ghana
  • Francis Bilson
    37 Military Teaching Hospital, Ghana
  • Juergen May
    2. Bernhard-Notch Institute for Tropical Medicine, Germany
  • Alexander Kraemer
    Bielefeld University, Germany


Vital registration systems (VRS) are important in the collection of routine data on indicators of development. These are particularly useful if they are properly built to address weaknesses in the system leading to poor data quality. For instance, routine data on health events (e.g. morbidity, mortality etc.) are crucial for rapid assessment of disease burden and mortality trends in the population. They are also useful in the identification of vulnerable groups in populations. Despite their usefulness, VRS in many developing countries including Ghana are poorly structured raising questions about the quality of the output data from these systems. The present study aimed at assessing and documenting the structure and function of the VRS in Ghana, as well as at identifying the structural features that potentially compromise the reliability and validity of the output data the system. To perform this study, collection and review of policy and legal documents establishing the VRS, documentation and evaluation of component structures of the system, assessment of procedural protocols guiding data collection processes and in-depth interviews with staff at the Ghana Births and Deaths Registry were performed. The assessment of the structure of the Ghana VRS, policy documents setting it up and the operational procedures reveals important lapses (e.g. presence of outmoded practices, imperfections in Births and Deaths Registry Act, 1965, Act 301 and imperfect system design) in the system that could compromise validity and reliability of the data generated from the registration in Ghana.


Vital registration system, routine data, reliability, validity, death cause, data quality

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Submitted: 2010-09-03 14:26:11
Published: 2011-03-04 11:16:27
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Copyright (c) 2011 Julius N. Fobil, Eunice Aryee, Francis Bilson, Juergen May, Alexander Kraemer

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