Assessing the causes of under-five mortality in the Albert Schweitzer Hospital service area of rural Haiti

Henry B. Perry, Allen G. Ross, Facile Fernand

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    OBJECTIVES: Limited information is available regarding the causes of under-five mortality in nearly all of the countries in which mortality is the highest. The purpose of this study was to use a standard computerized protocol for defining the leading causes of death among children in a high-mortality rural population of Haiti and to highlight the need for similar studies elsewhere in Haiti and throughout the high-mortality areas of Latin America and the Caribbean.
    METHODS: In 2001 a standardized, closed-ended verbal autopsy questionnaire endorsed by the World Health Organization was administered to a representative, population-based sample of the mothers or other caregivers of 97 children who had died before reaching 5 years of age between 1995 and 1999 in the service area of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital, which is located in the rural Artibonite Valley of Haiti. With the data from the questionnaires we used a computerized algorithm to generate diagnoses of the cause of death; the algorithm made it possible to have more than one cause of death.
    RESULTS: Acute lower respiratory infection (ALRI) was the leading diagnosis, present in 45% of all under-five deaths, followed by enteric diseases, present in 21% of deaths. Neonatal tetanus, preterm birth, and other early neonatal causes unassociated with ALRI or diarrhea were present in 41% of the neonatal deaths. Among children 1–59 months of age, ALRI was present in 51% of the deaths, and enteric diseases in 30%. Deaths were concentrated during the first few months of life, with 35% occurring during the first month. Among the neonatal deaths, 27% occurred on the first day of life, and 80% occurred during the first 10 days of life.
    CONCLUSIONS: In the Albert Schweitzer Hospital program area—and presumably in other areas of Haiti as well—priority needs to be given to the prevention of and the early, effective treatment of ALRI, diarrhea, and early neonatal conditions. This study points to the need for more, similar standardized assessments to guide local, regional, and national programs.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)178-186
    Number of pages9
    JournalRevista Panamericana de Salud Publica/Pan American Journal of Public Health
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2005


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