Seven data-related key issues


ANALYSING THE DAILY TOTAL DEATHS COUNT. Daily counting of deaths by COVID-19, number and accumulation, makes it possible to follow the trend and pace of the epidemics (slowing down, acceleration, plateau, peak, trough). Time or international perspective exercises must be conducted with caution: the data published in each country are derived from specific collection systems.

PROVIDING WELL-DOCUMENTED DATA. The aim of the INED website on mortality by COVID-19 is to disseminate the data published by different countries (by sex and age) The data on this site are enriched by detailed information on their sources (metadata).

HIGHLIGHTING DATA POTENTIALS AND LIMITS. The aim of the INED website is also to highlight their potential, while drawing attention to their specificities, differences and shortcomings to be avoided when using them. Based on these data and metadata, we illustrate here seven data-related key issues.

1. DEATHS’ OCCURENCE, REGISTRATION, PUBLICATION:
The publication of a death by health monitoring agencies is not immediate
. Electronic platform systems speed up publication but are not always widespread. What then is the cumulative total of deaths reported on a daily basis? Neither all nor only the deaths of the day.
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2. DEATHS IN HOSPITALS, IN INSTITUTIONS, AT HOME:
The share of deaths in hospital, at home and in institutions for the elderly varies from country to country; the process and speed of registration of deaths may vary according to the place. Some country counts are thus limited to information from one main channel. So what is the actual coverage of reported deaths? Total, partial, representative, selected...
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3. DEATH BY COVID-19 OR BT ANOTHER CAUSE:
The cause of death can be attributed to COVID-19 following biological tests, c clinical diagnosis, or if the infection is mentioned on the death certificate. From one country to another, the counting of deaths by COVID-19 is based on different criteria for identifying the cause: confirmed or suspected COVID, indirect effects of COVID.
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4. DATING THE BEGINNING OF THE EPIDEMICS:
As the pandemic has not affected all countries at the same time, one of the first recommendations is to align the curves with dates corresponding to the beginning of the epidemic; how can this date be established? We can rely on the cumulative number of COVID deaths, while waiting for a critical number.
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5. MAGNITUDE AND DYNAMICS:
Data on daily mortality by COVID-19 helps to understand the dynamics: in the short term to act and in the longer term to prevent and organize. We see similar steps from one country to another, but also specificities. It is necessary to be able to assess the differences that are related to the data and their representativeness (coverage) and those related to country-specific demographic structures and organisations.
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6. COUNTRIES AND/OR THEIR REGIONS FACING THE EPIDEMIC:
The
varying size of populations undoubtedly has an impact on the number of deaths: but it is not the entire population of a country that has been at risk. The pandemic acts by outbreaks like fires; barrier measures are needed to contain its spread, inducing varying exposures within countries. This question is essential for those who wish to estimate the risks of mortality and lethality.
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7. ADDRESSING DISPARITIES ACCORDING TO AGE AND GENDER:
Given the vulnerability of older people to this virus, the age structure of populations in different countries plays a determining role in the number of deaths. Differences in sex and age in the different places where death occurs is also imprtant for the analyses. Deaths by COVID-19 are concentrated at older ages and affect men more than women. But there are differences between countries.
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