Background: The systematic collection of high-quality mortality data is a prerequisite in designing relevant drowning prevention programmes. This descriptive study aimed to assess the quality (i.e., level of specificity) of cause-of-death reporting using ICD-10 drowning codes across 69 countries.
Methods: World Health Organization (WHO) mortality data were extracted for analysis. The proportion of unintentional drowning deaths coded as unspecified at the 3-character level (ICD-10 code W74) and for which the place of occurrence was unspecified at the 4th character (.9) were calculated for each country as indicators of the quality of cause-of-death reporting.
Results: In 32 of the 69 countries studied, the percentage of cases of unintentional drowning coded as unspecified at the 3-character level exceeded 50%, and in 19 countries, this percentage exceeded 80%; in contrast, the percentage was lower than 10% in only 10 countries. In 21 of the 56 countries that report 4-character codes, the percentage of unintentional drowning deaths for which the place of occurrence was unspecified at the 4th character exceeded 50%, and in 15 countries, exceeded 90%; in only 14 countries was this percentage lower than 10%.
Conclusion: Despite the introduction of more specific subcategories for drowning in the ICD-10, many countries were found to be failing to report sufficiently specific codes in drowning mortality data submitted to the WHO.