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Open Access Research article

Evaluating the performance of interpreting Verbal Autopsy 3.2 model for establishing pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of death in Ethiopia: a population-based cross-sectional study

Sebsibe Tadesse and Takele Tadesse*

Author Affiliations

Institute of Public Health, the University of Gondar, Gondar, Ethiopia

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:1039  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-1039

Published: 29 November 2012



In resource- poor settings, verbal autopsy data are often reviewed by physicians in order to assign the probable cause of death. But in addition to being time and energy consuming, the method is liable to produce inconsistent results. The aim of this study is to evaluate the performance of the InterVA 3.2 model for establishing pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of death in comparison with physician review of verbal autopsy data.


A population-based cross-sectional study was conducted from March to April, 2012. All adults aged ≥14 years and died between 01 January 2010 and 15 February 2012 were included in the study. Data were collected by using a pre-tested and modified WHO designed verbal autopsy questionnaire. The verbal autopsy interviews were reviewed by the InterVA model and the physicians. Cohen’s kappa statistic, receiver operating characteristic curves, sensitivity, and specificity values were applied to compare the agreement between the InterVA model and the physician review.


A total of 408 adult deaths were studied. The proportion of tuberculosis-specific mortality was established to be 36.0% and 23.0% by the InterVA model and the physicians, respectively. The InterVA model predicted pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of death with the probability of 0.80 (95% CI: 0.75-0.85). In classifying all deaths as tuberculosis and non-tuberculosis, the sensitivity and specificity values were 0.82 and 0.78, respectively. A moderate agreement was found between the model and physicians in assigning pulmonary tuberculosis as a cause of deaths [kappa= 0.5; 95% CI: (0.4-0.6)].


This study has revealed that the InterVA model showed a more promising result as a community-level tool for generating pulmonary tuberculosis-specific mortality data from verbal autopsy. The conclusion is believed to provide policymakers with a highly needed piece of information for allocating resources for health intervention.

The InterVA model; Pulmonary tuberculosis; Cause of death