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New e-Learning Course helps solve global problem with mortality data

African physicians contribute to solving a critical issue: 65% of global deaths have no recorded cause

(New York, USA) – A new e-learning course for physicians on how to properly certify medical cause of death was launched today by the global health nonprofit Vital Strategies in partnership with six ministries of health in Africa. This is the first Medical Certification for Cause of Death (MCCOD) course designed specifically for the African region. Physicians in Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia and Malawi will complete this course on a computer or tablet, providing wider availability and flexibility for medical training.

An estimated 65% of global deaths have no cause of death recorded. Ensuring deaths are medically certified can be a challenge, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, where a majority of deaths occur outside of health facilities. Few, if any, medical schools require cause-of-death certification training, a critical gap which leads to unreliable or poor-quality data – data that could provide critical insights into underlying diseases and health conditions that burden populations. As a result, governments are left to rely on “best guess” methods to guide health resource allocation and policy decisions for improving population health.

“A death certificate is more than a piece of paper – it provides legal protection for families and is a vital tool for governments and policymakers to develop and deliver data-driven health policies,” said Philip Setel, Vice President and Director, Civil Registration/Vital Statistics Program at Vital Strategies. “It’s essential that physicians are provided with the necessary training to properly issue an accurate medically certified cause of death. This e-learning course provides greater flexibility for physicians and helps improve the quality and availability of data for vital statistics, providing governments an accurate picture to inform public health priorities.”

Vital Strategies worked in partnership with expert physicians in the region and with eLearningmind, an e-learning firm based in New York, to design the content and structure of course.

Vital Strategies is an implementing partner of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative, co-funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The $100 million initiative works to improve the collection and use of critical public health data in 20 low- and middle-income countries around the world.

Learn more about our work in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative by visiting

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies expert, please contact