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Certification of Death

The improving cause of death reporting course was developed out of a collaborative project with the Africa Centres for Disease Control supported by the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief together with financial support from Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health. The development was done by the Centre for Community Technologies at Nelson Mandela University. Although South Africa has a well-established Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) System, the quality of mortality statistics obtained from the death notification forms completed by medical doctors is still suboptimal. As part of efforts to further strengthen the CRVS system, we sought to address the lack of training of medical students and doctors on proper certification of cause of death by developing a free online training course based on the ICD principles of identifying the underlying cause of death.

The platform enables self-learning on how to correctly complete a death certificate, understanding the importance of correct medical certification of cause of death, and role of doctors in producing reliable cause of death statistics. Assessments linked to Continuing Education Units are also available. Enhancements have been made to the tool following user experience and usability evaluation. The core element of the training is centred around the International Medical Certificate of Cause of Death Form.

The training is divided into five (5) modules:

Module 1: Gives a background to the registration process and the role of the doctor in producing reliable cause of death statistics

Module 2: Focuses on correctly identifying the underlying cause of death, causal sequence and completing the International Medical Cause of death Form

Module 3: Provides guidelines for special situations such as perinatal deaths, maternal deaths, and referral to Forensic pathology for injury and other external causes

Module 4: Provides guidelines for other special situations such as HIV, Diabetes mellitus, Hypertension, Infectious and parasitic conditions, Cancer, Death in the elderly and Death on arrival, while

Module 5: Focuses on correctly certifying death due to COVID-19 and COVID-19 related deaths

Case scenarios are presented throughout the training and each module is followed with a self-assessment to consolidate the information that has been covered. Once completed, the participant can register for a final assessment which draws on a bank of questions to assess competency around correct completion of the cause of death form.

The course is delivered on a platform that is compatible with computers, tablets and mobile phones. Furthermore, this platform includes voice-over recordings and downloadable reading materials. The design of the training platform allows for easy modification of the initial English language South African version to reflect other contexts, and for delivery in other languages. 

Click here to access the free online course on Improving cause of death reporting in South Africa.

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