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Open Access Research

An algorithm to assess methodological quality of nutrition and mortality cross-sectional surveys: development and application to surveys conducted in Darfur, Sudan

Claudine Prudhon1*, Xavier de Radiguès1, Nancy Dale2 and Francesco Checchi3

Author Affiliations

1 Health and Nutrition Tracking Service, Geneva, Switzerland

2 Department of International Health, University of Tampere, Finland

3 Faculty of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene &Tropical Medicine, London, UK

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Population Health Metrics 2011, 9:57  doi:10.1186/1478-7954-9-57

Published: 9 November 2011

Abstract

Background

Nutrition and mortality surveys are the main tools whereby evidence on the health status of populations affected by disasters and armed conflict is quantified and monitored over time. Several reviews have consistently revealed a lack of rigor in many surveys. We describe an algorithm for analyzing nutritional and mortality survey reports to identify a comprehensive range of errors that may result in sampling, response, or measurement biases and score quality. We apply the algorithm to surveys conducted in Darfur, Sudan.

Methods

We developed an algorithm based on internationally agreed upon methods and best practices. Penalties are attributed for a list of errors, and an overall score is built from the summation of penalties accrued by the survey as a whole. To test the algorithm reproducibility, it was independently applied by three raters on 30 randomly selected survey reports. The algorithm was further applied to more than 100 surveys conducted in Darfur, Sudan.

Results

The Intra Class Correlation coefficient was 0.79 for mortality surveys and 0.78 for nutrition surveys. The overall median quality score and range of about 100 surveys conducted in Darfur were 0.60 (0.12-0.93) and 0.675 (0.23-0.86) for mortality and nutrition surveys, respectively. They varied between the organizations conducting the surveys, with no major trend over time.

Conclusion

Our study suggests that it is possible to systematically assess quality of surveys and reveals considerable problems with the quality of nutritional and particularly mortality surveys conducted in the Darfur crisis.