Mortality rates in Latin America have come down in the past 50 years, essentially because of improvements in the field of health. Greater control of infectious, parasitic and respiratory diseases, immunization programmes and maternal education have had a direct impact in reducing infant mortality, albeit with large differences from one country to another, and between high-income groups and those who are poorer, revealing profound inequalities. The causes of death in the region have changed, shifting to adult ages and centring on chronic and degenerative diseases, alongside violence and accidents.
The measurement and analysis of mortality are of interest to numerous disciplines or fields of action, including health care, demographics, social security and social policies in general. This breadth of interest is due to the fact that life is what everyone values most, whence the effort to prevent death and reduce its individual and social incidence as far as possible. In addition, mortality is an indicator of the population’s health situation and living conditions in a wide range of aspects. Thus, there is every reason to seek to measure this phenomenon accurately, which means improving the way data are collected and suitable indicators prepared.
CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC has paid particular attention to the subject and has undertaken a variety of activities accordingly. Among them are the preparation of mortality estimates and the construction of mortality tables in collaboration with national statistical offices, these being vital inputs in the preparation of national population estimates and projections. Special attention is paid to infant mortality, with direct estimates being prepared from vital statistics and indirect estimates of infant and child mortality being produced using information from population censuses. CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC has observer status with the Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, with which it is working to update the Child Mortality Estimates database. It is also contributing to the efforts of the Regional Working Group for the Reduction of Maternal Mortality. In its concern to see progress towards the fifth Millennium Development Goal on improving maternal health and the third Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all, CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC is working on a research project entitled “Towards harmonization of maternal mortality estimates in Latin America: pilot study on maternal mortality estimates in Latin America”. In the area of technical assistance, CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC is advising the countries’ State agencies on the preparation of their population estimates and projections. In addition, it is working jointly with the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to hold the annual meeting of the Latin American and Caribbean Network to Strengthen Health Information Systems (RELACSIS), whose secretariat CELADE-Population Division of ECLAC has joined.