Counted - and then? : trends in child mortality within an Ethiopian demographic surveillance site

Abstract: Background Knowledge of the state of health of a population is necessary for planning for health services for that population. It is  a paradox that the health of populations is most commonly measured by mortality and cause of death patterns, but the absence of medical services available to a majority of the world population has made it unavoidable to equate “state of health” with “cause of death pattern”. In the absence of population registration, mortality and causes of death must be studied in samples from the population. The research presented in this thesis mainly has been done within such a sample in a collaborative project between Umeå university and the Addis Ababa university in Ethiopia. This research started 1986 and has run continuously since then. The thesis attempts to measure the effect that social and geographical inequalities has had on the mortality of the children in the study population. Population and Methods The population that is included in the demographic surveillance is the children under five years of age in nine rural and one urban community in central Ethiopia. Mortality and causes of death among the children have been followed since 1987. Results The mortality of the children in the study is high by international comparisons. The most important reason for mortality differences within the population is the difference in living conditions and societal services between the rural and urban areas. Approximately 45% of the child deaths could have been prevented if living conditions and services had been equal to rural and urban children. Conclusions Information concerning mortality and cause of death patterns are essential to planning. In order to empower the population, knowledge of the mortality and most common causes of death must be known to them.