Although the medical examiner’s office main responsibility is to determine the cause and manner of certain deaths, it also hosts various surveillance projects and fatality review teams. These programs examine patterns, trends, and factors leading up to certain types of death with the aim of identifying needed changes in services. Each project produces reports to inform policy makers and citizens about issues vital to a society concerned with public health and safety. These programs are evidence that the dead can indeed help the living.
The public health definition of surveillance is the systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of data regarding health events of interest. The surveillance projects within the medical examiner’s office work to identify those Virginians most at risk for sudden or violent death. These projects include:
- Family and Intimate Partner Homicide Surveillance
- Virginia Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Surveillance System (PAMSS)
- The Virginia Violent Death Reporting System
- Sudden Death in the Young Case Registry
- Infant and Child Mortality Surveillance System
Fatality review is a theory and method grounded in public health, designed to identify and understand risk factors for death. It involves examination of relevant records relating to the decedent by a multidisciplinary team of professionals. The purpose is to improve understanding of how and why people die and to make recommendations for education, training, and prevention efforts. The medical examiner’s office hosts the following programs: