A two-stage cluster sampling method using gridded population data, a GIS, and Google Earth TM imagery in a population-based mortality survey in Iraq

Lindsay P. Galway, Nathaniel Bell, Sahar A.E. Al Shatari, Amy Hagopian, Gilbert Burnham, Abraham Flaxman, Wiliam M. Weiss, Julie Rajaratnam, Tim K. Takaro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mortality estimates can measure and monitor the impacts of conflict on a population, guide humanitarian efforts, and help to better understand the public health impacts of conflict. Vital statistics registration and surveillance systems are rarely functional in conflict settings, posing a challenge of estimating mortality using retrospective population-based surveys.Results: We present a two-stage cluster sampling method for application in population-based mortality surveys. The sampling method utilizes gridded population data and a geographic information system (GIS) to select clusters in the first sampling stage and Google Earth TM imagery and sampling grids to select households in the second sampling stage. The sampling method is implemented in a household mortality study in Iraq in 2011. Factors affecting feasibility and methodological quality are described.Conclusion: Sampling is a challenge in retrospective population-based mortality studies and alternatives that improve on the conventional approaches are needed. The sampling strategy presented here was designed to generate a representative sample of the Iraqi population while reducing the potential for bias and considering the context specific challenges of the study setting. This sampling strategy, or variations on it, are adaptable and should be considered and tested in other conflict settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number12
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
StatePublished - Apr 27 2012


  • Cluster sampling
  • Conflict
  • Geographic information system (GIS)
  • Google EarthTM
  • Iraq war
  • Mortality
  • Population-based survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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