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Surveillance in easy to access population subgroups as a tool for evaluating malaria control progress: a systematic review

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

Article numbere0183330
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>16/08/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number8
Number of pages27
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English



The need for surveillance systems generating targeted, data-driven, responsive control efforts to accelerate and sustain malaria transmission reduction has been emphasized by programme managers, policy makers and scientists. Surveillance using easy-to-access population subgroups (EAGs) may result in considerable cost saving compared to household surveys as the identification and selection of individuals to be surveyed is simplified, fewer personnel are needed, and logistics are simpler. We reviewed available literature on the validation of estimates of key indicators of malaria control progress derived from EAGs, and describe the options to deal with the context specific bias that may occur.


A literature search was conducted of all documents reporting validation of estimates of malaria control indicators from EAG surveys before the 31st of December 2016. Additional records were identified through cross-reference from selected records, other applicable policy documents and grey literature. After removal of duplicates, 13, 180 abstracts were evaluated and 2,653 eligible abstracts were identified mentioning surveillance in EAGs, of which 29 full text articles were selected for detailed review. The nine articles selected for systematic review compared estimates from health facility and school surveys with those of a contemporaneous sample of the same population in the same geographic area.


Review of the available literature on EAGs suitable for surveillance of malaria control progress revealed that little effort has been made to explore the potential approach and settings for use of EAGs; and that there was wide variation in the precision of estimates of control progress between and within studies, particularly for estimates of control intervention coverage. Only one of the studies evaluated the geospatial representativeness of EAG samples, or carried out geospatial analyses to assess or control for lack of geospatial representativeness. Two studies attempted to measure the degree of bias or improve the precision of estimates by controlling for bias in a multivariate analysis; and this was only successful in one study. The observed variability in accuracy of estimates is likely to be caused by selection and/or information bias due to the inherent nature of EAGs. The reviewed studies provided insight into the design and analytical approaches that could be used to limit bias.


The utility EAGs for routine surveillance of progress in malaria control at the district or sub-district programmatic level will be driven by several factors including whether serial point estimates to measure transmission reduction or more precise geospatial distribution to track ‘hot-spots’ is required, the acceptable degree of precision, the target population, and the resources available for surveillance. The opportunities offered by novel geostatistical analyses and hybrid sampling frames to overcome bias justify a renewed exploration of use of EAGs for malaria monitoring and evaluation.