A well-functioning civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system registers all births and deaths, issues birth and death certificates, and compiles and disseminates vital statistics, including cause of death information. It may also record marriages and divorces. Despite the recognized importance of robust CRVS, many countries have inadequate systems. The births of tens of millions of children are known to be unregistered every year, and it is estimated that two-thirds of deaths are never registered and are thus not counted in the vital statistics system. (WHO)
Being able to accurately estimate denominators, specifically the number of adults and children in various age or sex categories, is essential to understand the health status of a population and ensure access to health services. How could you calculate vaccination coverage, plan for procurement of drugs and commodities and distributing them appropriately, or ensure an adequate number of health workers are trained without a basic understanding of your population demographics?
If drawn from a well-functioning CRVS system, data also provide rigorous mortality data which are of significant public health concern, including those concerning the human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), tuberculosis and malaria.(WHO 2013)
The WHO and World Bank Group have a Scaling Up Investment Plan (2015-2024) for CRVS highlighting the challenges and opportunities in improving CRVS, along with design principles for best practices for creating and scaling CRVS.
WHO offers both a comprehensive and a rapid CRVS assessment toolkit.