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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

How much do the physician review and InterVA model agree in determining causes of death? a comparative analysis of deaths in rural Ethiopia

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
Berhe Weldearegawi, Yohannes Adama Melaku, Geert Jan Dinant, Mark Spigt
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s12889-015-2032-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

BW and YAM involved in design of the surveillance, data collection and supervision. BW was involved in study conception, data processing and analysis. BW wrote the manuscript and interpreted the results. BW, YAM, GJD, and MS made substantial revision to the manuscript. MS and GJD mentored the process of paper writing from preparation to manuscript write up. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



Despite it is costly, slow and non-reproducible process, physician review (PR) is a commonly used method to interpret verbal autopsy data. However, there is a growing interest to adapt a new automated and internally consistent method called InterVA. This study evaluated the level of agreement in determining causes of death between PR and the InterVA model.


Verbal autopsy data for 434 cases collected between September 2009 and November 2012, were interpreted using both PR and the InterVA model. Cohen’s kappa statistic (κ) was used to compare the level of chance corrected case-by-case agreement in the diagnosis reached by the PR and InterVA model.


Both methods gave comparable cause specific mortality fractions of communicable diseases (36.6 % by PR and 36.2 % by the model), non-communicable diseases (31.1 % by PR and 38.2 % by the model) and accidents/injuries (12.9 % by PR and 10.1 % by the model). The level of case-by-case chance corrected concordance between the two methods was 0.33 (95 % CI for κ = 0.29–0.34). The highest and lowest agreements were seen for accidents/injuries and non-communicable diseases; with κ = 0.75 and κ = 0.37, respectively.


If the InterVA were used in place of the existing PR process, the overall diagnosis would be fairly similar. The methods had better agreement in important public health diseases like; TB, perinatal causes, and pneumonia/sepsis; and lower in cardiovascular diseases and neoplasms. Therefore, both methods need to be validated against a gold-standard diagnosis of death.
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