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Institute for International Programs

Tanzania | Verbal Autopsy and Social Autopsy Studies (VASA)

Through a grant to the Institute for International Programs of the Johns Hopkins University (JHU/IIP) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BGMF), the Maternal and Child Epidemiology Estimation (MCEE) Project is conducting several activities to provide improved global estimates of the causes and determinants of maternal, perinatal, neonatal (0-27 days old) and child (1-59 months old) morbidity and mortality, of intervention coverage, and of the effectiveness of health interventions. Many of these activities entail gathering and reviewing existing data and building models to develop estimates; while two activities involve gathering new verbal autopsy (VA) and social autopsy (SA) data to directly measure stillbirths, neonatal and child mortality and their determinants in high priority countries such as Tanzania. The government of Tanzania (GOT) has also identified obtaining more accurate national estimates of the causes and determinants of stillbirths, neonatal and child mortality as a high priority. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) of Tanzania conducted the 2015-16 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) that identified recent pregnancy losses and deaths of children under 5 years old. With BGMF’s support, JHU/IIP plans to work with the NBS to implement a verbal-social autopsy (VASA) study on the platform of the DHS. With funds from the MCEE Project, JHU/IIP will provide all required technical assistance and support of local costs to conduct the study, while NBS will implement and manage the conduct of the VASA study. JHU/IIP and NBS will work together and with key local partners such as the Ministry of Health of Tanzania to analyze and interpret the findings of the VASA study to support the development of maternal and child health policies and programs.

The VASA study is descriptive in nature, and has four major objectives:

  1. Estimate the proportions of stillbirths that are antepartum and intrapartum, and assess the level of misclassification of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in Tanzania;
  2. Estimate the cause distributions of death, separately for neonates (0-27 days old) and young children (1-59 months old), in Tanzania;
  3. Estimate the proportions of deaths, by cause, of neonates and young children that occur in hospital in Tanzania;
  4. Estimate the prevalence of social factors contributing to stillbirths and neonatal and young child deaths in Tanzania.

Main project’s activities and time frame


Start date

End date

  1. TDHS identifies 7+ months pregnancy terminations, and neonatal and 1-59 month deaths

March 2017

March 2017

  1. Preparatory work (work with study partner-NBS- to finalize protocol and contract, obtain IRB clearances, etc.)

March 2017

May 2017

  1. Make local preparations (translate the VASA questionnaire, prepare software, etc.)

March 2017

May 2017

  1. Training of trainers, data collectors and study field personnel

June 2017

July 2017

  1. Data collection and cleaning

August 2017

September 2017

  1. Data analysis and report writing

October 2017

December 2017

  1. Working group meeting, VASA data dissemination meeting and Cause of deaths consensus meeting

January 2018

January 2018

  1. Submission of final VASA study final report

February 2018

February 2018