Topic: GS3 – Health sector
Measuring Pandemic Impact:
- Excess mortality is a key metric used to measure the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- It is calculated by comparing observed mortality during the pandemic with expected mortality based on pre-pandemic trends.
Challenges in India:
- India faces challenges in directly estimating excess deaths due to COVID-19 due to incomplete death registration (about 70% registration).
- Death registration data in India varies widely across States and districts.
- The data does not provide weekly or monthly mortality data necessary for excess death calculations.
Data Compilation and Modeling:
- Independent investigators collected mortality records from government Civil Registration System (CRS) in 14 States and nine cities from January 2018 to May 2021.
- These records were used to develop modelled excess mortality estimates for India.
Variability in Estimates:
- COVID-19-related death estimates for India vary widely among different studies.
- The highest estimate was 4.7 million excess deaths in India during 2020-2021 using local data as inputs.
- There are concerns that some of the estimates may have overestimated COVID-related excess deaths in India.
- Various studies faced limitations and biases in data and assumptions.
Call for a Task Force:
- The author recommends establishing a task force of national experts to address this issue.
- The task force should have access to microdata from CRS, SRS, and other relevant sources.
- This task force would conduct a comprehensive analysis using standard statistical methods to provide accurate excess mortality measures at various levels.
- Accurate district-level mortality measures are essential for addressing various health challenges.
- These measures are vital for informed health actions, especially at the district level.
Strengthening Data Quality:
- There is an urgent need to improve the attribution of causes of death, including medical certification and retrospective interview methods.
- These initiatives will enhance data quality and the utility of CRS for mortality measurement in India.