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Using DHS and MICS data to complement or replace NGO baseline health data: an exploratory study
Authors: Peter R. Berti, Milena Nardocci, Minh Hung Tran, Malek Batal, Rebecca Brodmann, Nicolas Greliche, and Naomi M. Saville
Source: F1000 Research, DOI:
Topic(s): Data use
Spatial analysis
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: FEB 2021
Abstract: Background: Non-government organizations (NGOs) spend substantial time and resources collecting baseline data in order to plan and implement health interventions with marginalized populations. Typically interviews with households, often mothers, take over an hour, placing a burden on the respondents. Meanwhile, estimates of numerous health and social indicators in many countries already exist in publicly available datasets, such as the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), and it is worth considering whether these could serve as estimates of baseline conditions. The objective of this study was to compare indicator estimates from non-governmental organizations (NGO) health projects’ baseline reports with estimates calculated using the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) or the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), matching for location, year, and season of data collection. Methods: We extracted estimates of 129 indicators from 46 NGO baseline reports, 25 DHS datasets and three MICS datasets, generating 1,996 pairs of matched DHS/MICS and NGO indicators. We subtracted NGO from DHS/MICS estimates to yield difference and absolute difference, exploring differences by indicator. We partitioned variance of the differences by geographical level, year, and season using ANOVA. Results: Differences between NGO and DHS/MICS estimates were large for many indicators but 33% fell within 5% of one another. Differences were smaller for indicators with prevalence <15% or >85%. Difference between estimates increased with increasing year and geographical level differences. However, <1% of the variance of the differences was explained by year, geographical level, and season. Conclusions: There are situations where publicly available data could complement NGO baseline survey data, most importantly when the NGO has tolerance for estimates of low or unknown accuracy.