Evaluation of a simplified method for estimation of early childhood mortality in small populations

George Bicego, Antoine Augustin, Stanley Musgrave, James Allman, Patrick Kelly

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4 Citations (Scopus)


The provision of simple health technologies in less developed countries has far outpaced the capabilities to evaluate their impact on health in general, and early childhood survival in particular. In rural Haiti, attempts to monitor the impact of health care delivery programmes have been frustrated by some of the same problems encountered elsewhere; ie lack of practicable yet scientifically sound methodologies that interface well with ongoing service delivery programmes. The 'preceding birth' technique, originally advanced by Brass and Macrae, holds promise as just such a method. Its practical appeal derives largely from simple data requirements. In its simplest form, the method requires only responses to a single question put to mothers at delivery regarding the survival status of her previous child. They have shown that the proportion of immediately preceding births dying before the 'index' birth date provides a good approximation of the standard life table probability of death before the second birthday. Given that in rural Haiti, as in much of the less developed world, few women deliver in clinic or hospital where such data could be systematically obtained, exploitation of the preceding birth method would require identification of a convenient and unobtrusive point of contact between questioner and mothers who have recently delivered. In Haiti, two options arose: (1) interview women at home after childbirth, and (2) interview women when they bring the 'index' child seeking vaccination or some other child survival intervention. Both of these deviate from the original technique of Brass and Macrae with respect to the timing and method of data collection, and could therefore introduce serious complications to the interpretation of trends in child mortality. To study this, we examined the effects of adapting the preceding birth method to a rural less developed country setting in Mirebalais, where since 1983 primary health care activities have been administered by MARCH (Management and Resources for Community Health), a private voluntary health organization. The Mirebalais study used a pregnancy register, originally developed for targeting of services, to identify women who were expected to have given birth during the 12-month period before each of two survey rounds. Brief interviews with these women would provide direct life table estimates of child mortality level and trend with which to compare estimates produced from use of the preceding birth method in modified form. Direct estimates of the probability of dying before the second birthday were 138/1000 from first round data and 134/1000 from second round data, indicating a 3% decline.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S20-32
JournalInternational Journal of Epidemiology
Issue number4 Suppl 2
Publication statusPublished - 1989


  • Data Collection
  • Developing Countries
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Haiti
  • Humans
  • Infant Mortality
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Population Density
  • Rural Population

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