Health surveys in developing countries: the objectives and design of an international programme

Soc Sci Med. 1988;27(4):359-68. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(88)90270-5.


There have been calls recently for a major international effort to collect epidemiological information in developing countries. One approach to a World Health Survey is considered, namely single-round retrospective interview surveys. Surveys can contribute to the improvement of national health information systems by providing person-based, rather than episode-based, measures related to health that apply to the entire population. A programme of health interview surveys could be used to ascertain patterns of morbidity and mortality, to measure access to and use of health services and to develop and disseminate methodologies for collecting and analysing health related data. Single-round surveys could not be used to evaluate the impact of investments on health and would be of limited use for improving our understanding of the determinants of ill health. Attention is drawn to a number of conceptual, technical and logistic issues to be considered in the design of a World Health Survey.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Developing Countries*
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Global Health*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation*
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Nutritional Status