Background: Mortality statistics from death registration systems are essential for health policy and development. Indonesia has recently mandated compulsory death registration across the entire country in December 2006. This article describes the methods and results from activities to ascertain causes of registered deaths in two pilot registration areas in Central Java during 2006-2007. The methods involved several steps, starting with adaptation of international standards for reporting causes of registered deaths for implementation in two sites, Surakarta (urban) and Pekalongan (rural). Causes for hospital deaths were certified by attending physicians. Verbal autopsies were used for home deaths. Underlying causes were coded using ICD-10. Completeness of registration was assessed in a sample of villages and urban wards by triangulating data from the health sector, the civil registration system, and an independent household survey. Finally, summary mortality indicators and cause of death rankings were developed for each site.
Findings: A total of 10,038 deaths were registered in the two sites during 2006-2007; yielding annual crude death rates of 5.9 to 6.8 per 1000. Data completeness was higher in rural areas (72.5%) as compared to urban areas (52%). Adjusted life expectancies at birth were higher for both males and females in the urban population as compared to the rural population. Stroke, ischaemic heart disease and chronic respiratory disease are prominent causes in both populations. Other important causes are diabetes and cancer in urban areas; and tuberculosis and diarrhoeal diseases in rural areas.
Conclusions: Non-communicable diseases cause a significant proportion of premature mortality in Central Java. Implementing cause of death reporting in conjunction with death registration appears feasible in Indonesia. Better collaboration between health and registration sectors is required to improve data quality. These are the first local mortality measures for health policy and monitoring in Indonesia. Strong demand for data from different stakeholders can stimulate further strengthening of mortality registration systems.