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PLoS Med. 2013;10(5):e1001391. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1001391. Epub 2013 May 7.

Measuring coverage in MNCH: tracking progress in health for women and children using DHS and MICS household surveys.

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Statistics and Monitoring Section, Division of Planning and Strategy, UNICEF, New York, New York, United States of America.


Household surveys are the primary data source of coverage indicators for children and women for most developing countries. Most of this information is generated by two global household survey programmes-the USAID-supported Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) and the UNICEF-supported Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS). In this review, we provide an overview of these two programmes, which cover a wide range of child and maternal health topics and provide estimates of many Millennium Development Goal indicators, as well as estimates of the indicators for the Countdown to 2015 initiative and the Commission on Information and Accountability for Women's and Children's Health. MICS and DHS collaborate closely and work through interagency processes to ensure that survey tools are harmonized and comparable as far as possible, but we highlight differences between DHS and MICS in the population covered and the reference periods used to measure coverage. These differences need to be considered when comparing estimates of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health indicators across countries and over time and we discuss the implications of these differences for coverage measurement. Finally, we discuss the need for survey planners and consumers of survey results to understand the strengths, limitations, and constraints of coverage measurements generated through household surveys, and address some technical issues surrounding sampling and quality control. We conclude that, although much effort has been made to improve coverage measurement in household surveys, continuing efforts are needed, including further research to improve and refine survey methods and analytical techniques.

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