Background: Assessing the burden of disease contributes towards evidence-based allocation of limited health resources. However, such measures are not yet commonly available in Vietnam. Taking advantage of the FilaBavi Demographic Surveillance Site (FilaBavi DSS) in Vietnam, this study aimed to establish the feasibility of applying the Years of Life Lost (YLL) technique in the context of a defined DSS, and to estimate the importance of the principal causes of premature mortality in a rural area of Vietnam between 1999 and 2003.
Methods: Global Burden of Disease methods were applied. Causes of death were ascertained by verbal autopsy.
Results: In five years, 1,240 deaths occurred and for 1,220 cases cause of death information from verbal autopsy was available. Life expectancy at birth was 71.0 (95% confidence interval 69.9-72.1) in males and 80.9 (79.9-81.9) in females. The discounted, but not age weighted YLL per 1,000 population was 85 and 55 for males and females, respectively. The leading causes of YLL and death counts were cardiovascular diseases, malignant neoplasms, unintentional injuries, and neonatal causes. Males contributed 54% of total deaths and 59% of YLL. Males experienced higher YLL than women across all causes. Filabavi mortality estimates are considerably lower than 2002 WHO country estimates for Vietnam. Also the FilaBavi cause distribution varies considerably from the WHO result.
Conclusion: The combination of localised demographic surveillance, verbal autopsy and the application of YLL methods enable new insights into the magnitude and importance of significant public health issues in settings where evidence for planning is otherwise scarce. Local mortality data vary considerably from the WHO model-based estimates.