A Review of National Health Surveys in India/Examen Des Enquetes Nationales Sur la Sante En Inde/Una Revision De Las Encuestas Nacionales De Salud En India

By Dandona, Rakhi; Pandey, Anamika et al. | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, April 2016 | Go to article overview

A Review of National Health Surveys in India/Examen Des Enquetes Nationales Sur la Sante En Inde/Una Revision De Las Encuestas Nacionales De Salud En India


Dandona, Rakhi, Pandey, Anamika, Dandona, Lalit, Bulletin of the World Health Organization


Introduction

Health information gathering is an important part of any health system, but is often weak in low-income countries, plagued by poor quality data that are inadequate for informing health policy. (1-4)

Population-based surveys are an invaluable source of health information. (5) A key aim of these surveys is to provide high-quality data for policy development and programme planning, monitoring and evaluation. Population-based surveys have been used extensively to gather information on fertility, mortality, family planning, maternal and child health, and some other aspects of health, nutrition and health care in India."

We have previously reported that the health information system in India has not kept up with the epidemiological transition. (6) In this paper, we assess national health surveys conducted in India since 1992 that were designed to provide information on health indicators at subnational levels. We describe and compare the health information covered by these surveys over time, the availability of resulting data in the public domain and the use of these survey data in publications. Based on our findings, we highlight the issues that need consideration to improve the usefulness of these surveys. We believe they should be able to provide more effective, useable and timely data on the health status of the population, given the evolving disease burden in India.

Reviewing surveys

We selected large-scale, national, population-based household surveys that provided data on health indicators at the subnational levels in India from 1992 to 2015. These were the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), the District Level Household Survey (DLHS) and the Annual Health Survey (AHS), (Box 1). The surveys are summarized in Table 1.

Themes

We reviewed the survey questionnaires to assess: survey period and sample sizes; types of respondent; key themes; timeframe for availability of data in the public domain; and analytical publications resulting from the data. A more detailed review of the number of children, reference period and age groups was undertaken to gauge the utility of the data for assessment of trends in child mortality, maternal mortality and immunization.

To determine how well the household, male and female survey questionnaires corresponded to disease burden in the country, we assessed the proportion of questions covering major themes: maternal and child health; reproductive health other than infections; reproductive tract infections; other adult infections; noncommunicable diseases; and injuries. Data on anthropometric and biological markers were analysed in addition to the questionnaires.

We recorded the time between the completion of data collection for each survey round and the availability of individual-level data in the public domain. We conducted a PubMed database search to identify peer-reviewed research papers from January 1993 to March 2015 that had used data from either or all of the first three rounds of the NFHS and DLHS. For the AHS, this search was done for research papers published between January 2011 and March 2015. The fourth rounds of the NFHS and DLHS were not included in this search as the data collection for the former is not yet complete and the data for the latter have not yet been released in the public domain. The search terms used in PubMed to identify relevant publications were "National Family Health Survey" or "NFHS and India", "District Level Household Survey" or "DLHS and India" and "Annual Health Survey" or "AHS and India". We screened the titles and abstracts of identified articles and reviewed the full texts of those that analysed data from the surveys. Review papers and the papers that merely made reference to survey data in background or discussion sections were excluded.

Survey characteristics

Survey period

The first survey conducted was NFHS-1 in 1992-1993. …

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