Coding associated causes of death and psychosocial risk factors as part of the National Mortality Dataset

The National Mortality Dataset (NMD) is an epidemiological dataset that contains annual death registrations for a given reference period. The NMD includes demographic variables including age, sex and country of birth as well as cause of death information coded to the International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10). Cause of death data includes both the underlying cause of death (UCoD) and associated causes of death (ACoD). The UCoD is the disease, condition or external event that initiated the train of morbid events leading to death. The ACoDs refer to all other conditions listed on the medical certificate of cause of death by the certifier. ACoDs can include diseases that are part of the chain of events leading to death, risk factors and co-morbid chronic conditions (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2020a). Understanding what ACoDs contributed to an individual’s death can provide insight into intervention points to prevent or decrease some causes of death. For example, modifiable risk factors such as smoking or hypertension can be targeted via public health campaigns, changing laws (ie. changing smoking regulations) and treatments (ie. diuretics or ACE inhibitors to manage hypertension) (Pilibosian, Wu, Aldrich and Wheeler 1999). Mental health conditions such as depression or drug and alcohol abuse are known to have a negative impact on health and are focus areas in national suicide prevention strategies (Lee and Jung 2006). Additionally knowing what drugs were present in an overdose can lead to reviews of drug prescription and use patterns (Department of Health 2017).

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