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BackgroundHealth inequities in developing countries are difficult to eradicate because of limited resources. The neglect of adult mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is a particular concern. Advances in data availability, software and analytic methods have created opportunities to address this challenge and tailor interventions to small areas. This study demonstrates how a generic framework can be applied to guide policy interventions to reduce adult mortality in high risk areas. The framework, therefore, incorporates the spatial clustering of adult mortality, estimates the impact of a range of determinants and quantifies the impact of their removal to ensure optimal returns on scarce resources.MethodsData from a national cross-sectional survey in 2007 were used to illustrate the use of the generic framework for SSA and elsewhere. Adult mortality proportions were analyzed at four administrative levels and spatial analyses were used to identify areas with significant excess mortality. An ecological approach was then used to assess the relationship between mortality "hotspots" and various determinants. Population attributable fractions were calculated to quantify the reduction in mortality as a result of targeted removal of high-impact determinants.ResultsOverall adult mortality rate was 145 per 10,000. Spatial disaggregation identified a highly non-random pattern and 67 significant high risk local municipalities were identified. The most prominent determinants of adult mortality included HIV antenatal sero-prevalence, low SES and lack of formal marital union status. The removal of the most attributable factors, based on local area prevalence, suggest that overall adult mortality could be potentially reduced by ∼90 deaths per 10,000.ConclusionsThe innovative use of secondary data and advanced epidemiological techniques can be combined in a generic framework to identify and map mortality to the lowest administration level. The identification of high risk mortality determinants allows health authorities to tailor interventions at local level. This approach can be replicated elsewhere.

Original publication





PloS one

Publication Date





School of Public Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.


Humans, Data Collection, Mortality, Risk, Cities, Adolescent, Adult, Middle Aged, Africa South of the Sahara, South Africa, Female, Male, Health Status Disparities, Young Adult, Spatial Analysis