Testing survey-based methods for rapid monitoring of child mortality, with implications for summary birth history data

Eoghan Brady, Kenneth Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction Under-five mortality estimates are increasingly used in low and middle income countries to target interventions and measure performance against global development goals. Two new methods to rapidly estimate under-5 mortality based on Summary Birth Histories (SBH) were described in a previous paper and tested with data available. This analysis tests the methods using data appropriate to each method from 5 countries that lack vital registration systems. SBH data are collected across many countries through censuses and surveys, and indirect methods often rely upon their quality to estimate mortality rates. Methods and findings The Birth History Imputation method imputes data from a recent Full Birth History (FBH) onto the birth, death and age distribution of the SBH to produce estimates based on the resulting distribution of child mortality. DHS FBHs and MICS SBHs are used for all five countries. In the implementation, 43 of 70 estimates are within 20% of validation estimates (61%). Mean Absolute Relative Error is 17.7.%. 1 of 7 countries produces acceptable estimates. The Cohort Change method considers the differences in births and deaths between repeated Summary Birth Histories at 1 or 2-year intervals to estimate the mortality rate in that period. SBHs are taken from Brazil's PNAD Surveys 2004-2011 and validated against IGME estimates. 2 of 10 estimates are within 10% of validation estimates. Mean absolute relative error is greater than 100%. Conclusions Appropriate testing of these new methods demonstrates that they do not produce sufficiently good estimates based on the data available. We conclude this is due to the poor quality of most SBH data included in the study. This has wider implications for the next round of censuses and future household surveys across many low and middle income countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0176366
JournalPloS one
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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