Subnational estimation of modern contraceptive prevalence in five sub-Saharan African countries: a Bayesian hierarchical approach

BMC Public Health. 2019 Feb 20;19(1):216. doi: 10.1186/s12889-019-6545-3.


Background: Global monitoring efforts have relied on national estimates of modern contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) for many low-income countries. However, most contraceptive delivery programs are implemented by health departments at lower administrative levels, reflecting a persisting gap between the availability of and need for subnational mCPR estimates.

Methods: Using woman-level data from multiple semi-annual national survey rounds conducted between 2013 and 2016 in five sub-Saharan African countries (Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda) by the Performance, Monitoring and Accountability 2020 project, we propose a Bayesian Hierarchical Model with a standard set of covariates and temporally correlated random effects to estimate the level and trend of mCPR for first level administrative divisions in each country.

Results: There is considerable narrowing of the uncertainty interval (UI) around the model-based estimates, compared to the estimates directly based on the survey data. We find substantial variations in the estimated subnational mCPRs. Uganda, for example, shows a gain in mCPR of 6.4% (95% UI: 4.5-8.3) based on model estimates of 20.9% (19.6-22.2) in mid-2014 and 27.3% (26.0-28.8) in mid-2016, with change across 10 regions ranging from - 0.6 points in Karamoja to 9.4 points in Central 2 region. The lower bound of the UIs of the change over four rounds was above 0 in 6 regions. Similar upward trends are observed for most regions in the other four countries, and there is noticeable within-country geographic variation.

Conclusions: Reliable subnational estimates of mCPR empower health departments in evidence-based policy making. Despite nationally increasing mCPRs, regional disparities exist within countries suggesting uneven contraceptive access. Raising investments in disadvantaged areas may be warranted to increase equity in access to modern contraceptive methods.

Keywords: Bayesian hierarchical model; Family planning; Sub-Saharan Africa; Subnational estimates.

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara / epidemiology
  • Bayes Theorem*
  • Contraception / statistics & numerical data*
  • Contraception Behavior / statistics & numerical data*
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Prevalence