Coordination meeting on the estimation of adult mortality

New York

31 July 2008


The Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) of the United Nations Secretariat has the task of estimating levels and trends of mortality for all the countries of the world. The work of the Population Division in this area has encompassed both the preparation of estimates of mortality indicators and the development of methods to estimate mortality, particularly when the data available are incomplete or deficient. As mortality levels decrease, deaths become increasingly concentrated at older ages as is the case in a majority of developing countries today. Given that the quality of data on mortality has not improved as much as mortality levels in those countries, it is pressing to develop and test appropriate methods to estimate mortality in adult ages. In addition, in high-mortality countries, many of which are significantly affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, accounting for the effect of the epidemic on adult mortality is essential. For those reasons, the Population Division of DESA has been working on the evaluation and improvement of methodology for the estimation of adult mortality.

As part of this ongoing effort, the Population Division of DESA organizes on a regular basis coordination meetings to discuss matters related to the estimation of adult mortality. The second United Nations Coordination Meeting on the Estimation of Adult Mortality took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York on 31 July 2008. The meeting included representatives of key institutions active in the study of mortality, including agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations system, offices of the United Nations and the regional commissions as well as national statistical offices, universities and research organizations. The meeting reviewed progress made in methods to model and estimate adult mortality in countries with deficient data and identified future directions for research and collaboration. The meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss ongoing activities in the different institutions. 


Organization of work

Thursday, 31 July 2008



Morning session

  • Hania Zlotnik, Population Division. Opening of the meeting
  • François Pelletier, Population Division. Overview


I. Brief summary of mortality estimation activities

  • Participants from CELADE, WHO, the US Census Bureau and UNPD are asked to provide a brief overview of work and a statement of priorities in the area of mortality estimation from the perspective of their home institutions.


II. New components in death distribution methods

  • Kirill Andreev, Population Division.  Extending the General Growth Balance method to account for migration:  
  • Ken Hill, Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies. The impact of migration on death distribution methods: Can we adjust?
  • Discussion and questions


III. Sibling histories and adult mortality levels

  • Bruno Masquelier, Chercheur (Aspirant FNRS) Institut de démographie (UCL). Analysis of adult mortality based on data on adult siblings: A biographic multilevel approach.
  • Discussion and questions 




Afternoon session

IV. Model life table systems

  • John Wilmoth, Population Division. A flexible two-dimensional mortality model for use in indirect estimation: Motivation and derivation. 

  • Sarah Zureick, WHO.  A flexible two-dimensional mortality model for use in indirect estimation: Performance tests and comparisons.

  • Discussion and questions


V. Old age mortality

  • Cheryl Sawyer, Population Division. Mortality among the elderly in developing countries: Issues for consideration.

  • Discussion and questions


VI. Alternative methods for estimating background and senescent mortality

  • John Bongaarts, Population Council. Trends in senescent life expectancy.

  • Discussion and questions


VII. An epidemiological perspective to adult mortality

  • Carlos Castillo-Salgado, Adjunct Associate Professor Bloomberg School of Public Health.  The epidemiology of adult mortality in the XXI Century: A challenge for public health.
  • Discussion and questions
  • François Pelletier, Population Division, Hania Zlotnik, Population Division. Concluding remarks