A General Mortality Modeling Framework in the Era of the SDGM


Dr. Samuel Clark, Department of Sociology
Rank at time of award: Professor



Following the Millennium Development Goals, the The UN and its partners have agreed on a new goal-setting and progress-tracking framework for global development: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Many of the indicators contained in the SDGs include or rely on indicators of mortality, and a key principle of the SDGs is that no one be ‘left out’.  This is operationalized as both complete coverage of indicators and fine-grained disaggregation of indicators.  With this aspiration, literally no one is left out of the accounting framework, and people who differ along important dimensions are treated separately, i.e.  people of all types are included in measurement.  Mortality measures in much of the developing world are rough at best, and in Africa direct measures of mortality at ages older than five are rare.  Further, affecting the same populations, data used to construct mortality indicators are not collected continuously, or in some cases even frequently, and very rarely are they collected from everyone, much less from all types of people. The magnitude of this challenge is significant
– about two-thirds of global deaths are unrecorded, with many of those in Africa. This seed grant seeks support to conduct preliminary work and project planning for at least one R01 application to the NIH to develop a suite of new mortality measurement tools that address coverage and disaggregation along the dimensions of space, time, sex, age, SES and perhaps other dimensions. Beyond providing feasible approaches to gauge progress toward the SDG targets, these tools could be important in allowing national and local governments to better understand and address health issues.


Indicators of mortality that describe deaths in a population are the most fundamental indicator of health conditions. In spite of this, roughly two-thirds of the world’s deaths are unrecorded, mostly in developing countries where health interventions are most needed. The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals provide motivation and some guidance for what is necessary to improve measurement and reporting on mortality conditions. This seed grant supports work to develop an application to the National Institutes of Health to support a large project that will develop new mortality measurement tools to address this situation.