Objective: To supplement the information on the underlying cause of death due to external causes through using news carried in newspapers.
Methods: This study investigated 153 deaths due to external causes among people living in Belo Horizonte, Southeastern Brazil, in 2008. A database named "press" was constructed using information from large-circulation national and state-level newspapers, and this was correlated with the database of the Brazilian mortality information system. The data were analyzed using the EpiInfo and Link-plus software. The concordance of the results was assessed using the kappa coefficient.
Results: A total of 1,530 news items on accidents and violence were located, and 201 of these items were matched with death certificates in the mortality information system; 153 items referred to people living in Belo Horizonte. The main causes of death identified in the databases were aggression and traffic accidents. In the press database, aggression and traffic accidents accounted for 86.3%, other accidents 7.8%, events of undetermined intent 4.6% and legal intervention cases 1.3%. After supplementation using the press database, there were increases in the numbers of deaths due to car accidents (220.0%) and motorcycle accidents (100.0%), which resulted in a decrease in the numbers of deaths due to indeterminate causes and unspecified traffic accidents notified in the mortality information system.
Conclusions: News in newspapers has great potential for qualifying and supplementing the information on the underlying cause of death due to external causes in the mortality information system, particularly regarding deaths due to traffic accidents.