Thursday, April 24, 2008

Fatal Facts

Data about causes of death are published annually by the ABS, sourced from deaths registrations administered by the various state and territory Registars of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

The latest Causes of Death, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 3303.0) was released in March 2008. The main publication includes data across a range of major causes of death, including both underlying causes of death and multiple causes of death.
Additional data cubes are now available providing detailed breakdowns by Causes of Death. For example, data is available for each year from 1997 to 2006 for deaths from diseases such as whooping cough, HIV, or eating disorders; or external causes such as 'victim of lightning', 'fall from a tree', or 'bitten or struck by crocodile or alligator'.

This year's release was accompanied by a new publication: Information Paper: ABS Causes of death statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2006 (cat. no. 3317.0.55.002). It is important to be aware of the issues explored in this paper when using causes of death statistics. They include the way in which the data may fluctuate from year to year, differences between jurisdictions in the practices of registrars and coroners, and the impact of incomplete information on coding.

Suicide data is now also included in the Causes of Death publication, where previously it was released as a separate publication. A recent paper in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, April 2008: Deaths due to suicide: the effects of certification and coding practices in Australia looks at the importance of understanding the official suicide data in light of the issues inherent in death registration, certification and coding practices before interpreting suicide trend data.

The Explanatory Notes for Causes of Death, Australia, 2006 are also vital for highlighting issues related to the publication's data: for example, including a discussion of differences in number of deaths due to assault (murder) in comparison with the numbers in Recorded Crime - Victims, Australia, 2006 (cat. no. 4510.0).

The National Coroners Information System (NCIS) is another source of detailed data relating to Australian deaths. This database contains information about every death reported to an Australian coroner since July 2000, and also releases several publications available to the general public. These include:
Fatal Facts - which identifies and summarises all coronial recommendations added to the NCIS and provides in depth cases where recommendations were made, for example: level crossing fatalities, deaths related to the prescription of medication, or bicycle deaths.
Also the House Fires Bulletin, and the Product Related Bulletin - which provides an overview of deaths contributed to by a faulty, misused or poorly maintained consumer product - such as car jacks or prams.

Additional resources to note:
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau releases Road Deaths Australia (monthly and annual data).
The Research Centre for Injury Studies (RCIS), incorporating the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) National Injury Surveillance Unit (NISU) releases a range of relevant publications including Injury deaths in Australia; recent releases include Deaths and hospitalisations due to drowning, Australia 1999-00 to 2003-04 (March 2008).

Further information is also available via the AIHW Mortality portal, which includes the 2006 publication: Mortality over the twentieth century in Australia: trends and patterns in major causes of death.

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