Bulletin of the World Health Organization

A comparison of cluster and systematic sampling methods for measuring crude mortality

Angela MC Rose, Rebecca F Grais, Denis Coulombier, & Helga Ritter

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

To compare the results of two different survey sampling techniques (cluster and systematic) used to measure retrospective mortality on the same population at about the same time.

METHODS

Immediately following a cluster survey to assess mortality retrospectively in a town in North Darfur, Sudan in 2005, we conducted a systematic survey on the same population and again measured mortality retrospectively. This was only possible because the geographical layout of the town, and the availability of a good previous estimate of the population size and distribution, were conducive to the systematic survey design.

FINDINGS

Both the cluster and the systematic survey methods gave similar results below the emergency threshold for crude mortality (0.80 versus 0.77 per 10 000/day, respectively). The results for mortality in children under 5 years old (U5MR) were different (1.16 versus 0.71 per 10 000/day), although this difference was not statistically significant. The 95% confidence intervals were wider in each case for the cluster survey, especially for the U5MR (0.15–2.18 for the cluster versus 0.09–1.33 for the systematic survey).

CONCLUSION

Both methods gave similar age and sex distributions. The systematic survey, however, allowed for an estimate of the town’s population size, and a smaller sample could have been used. This study was conducted in a purely operational, rather than a research context. A research study into alternative methods for measuring retrospective mortality in areas with mortality significantly above the emergency threshold is needed, and is planned for 2006.

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