Rheumatic Heart Disease-Attributable Mortality at Ages 5-69 Years in Fiji: A Five-Year, National, Population-Based Record-Linkage Cohort Study

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015 Sep 15;9(9):e0004033. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0004033. eCollection 2015.


Background: Rheumatic heart disease (RHD) is considered a major public health problem in developing countries, although scarce data are available to substantiate this. Here we quantify mortality from RHD in Fiji during 2008-2012 in people aged 5-69 years.

Methods and findings: Using 1,773,999 records derived from multiple sources of routine clinical and administrative data, we used probabilistic record-linkage to define a cohort of 2,619 persons diagnosed with RHD, observed for all-cause mortality over 11,538 person-years. Using relative survival methods, we estimated there were 378 RHD-attributable deaths, almost half of which occurred before age 40 years. Using census data as the denominator, we calculated there were 9.9 deaths (95% CI 9.8-10.0) and 331 years of life-lost (YLL, 95% CI 330.4-331.5) due to RHD per 100,000 person-years, standardised to the portion of the WHO World Standard Population aged 0-69 years. Valuing life using Fiji's per-capita gross domestic product, we estimated these deaths cost United States Dollar $6,077,431 annually. Compared to vital registration data for 2011-2012, we calculated there were 1.6-times more RHD-attributable deaths than the number reported, and found our estimate of RHD mortality exceeded all but the five leading reported causes of premature death, based on collapsed underlying cause-of-death diagnoses.

Conclusions: Rheumatic heart disease is a leading cause of premature death as well as an important economic burden in this setting. Age-standardised death rates are more than twice those reported in current global estimates. Linkage of routine data provides an efficient tool to better define the epidemiology of neglected diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Fiji / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rheumatic Heart Disease / mortality*
  • Survival Analysis
  • United States
  • Young Adult