March 25, 2019

Comparison of 1-week and 2-week recall periods for caregiver-reported diarrhoeal illness in children, using nationally representative household surveys

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Authors: Katie Overbey, Kellogg Schwab, Natalie Exum

Journal: International Journal of Epidemiology, 48(8). March 2019

Diarrhoeal outcomes in children are often ascertained using caregiver-reported symptoms, which are subject to a variety of biases and methodological challenges. One source of bias is the time window used for reporting diarrhoeal illness and the ability of caregivers to accurately recall episodes in children.

Diarrhoea period prevalence in children under five was determined using two similarly administered, nationally representative household surveys: Performance Monitoring and Accountability 2020 (PMA2020) (1-week recall, N = 14 603) and Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) (2-week recall, N = 66 717). Countries included in the analysis were the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. Diarrhoea period prevalence estimates were compared and water, sanitation and hygiene risk factors were analysed.

Childhood diarrhoea prevalence using 1-week recall (PMA2020) pooled across countries was 21.4% [95% confidence interval (CI): 19.9%, 22.9%] versus 16.0% using 2-week recall (DHS) (95% CI: 15.4%, 16.5%). In stratified analyses for all five countries, the number of diarrhoea cases detected was consistently higher using 1-week recall versus 2-week recall. The key risk factors identified in the PMA2020 data that were not associated with diarrhoeal episodes or were attenuated in the DHS data included: the main sanitation classifications for households, disposal method used for child faeces, number of household members and wealth quintiles.

For nationally representative household surveys assessing childhood diarrhoea period prevalence, a 2-week recall period may underestimate diarrhoea prevalence compared with a 1-week period. The household sanitation facility and practices remain key risk factors for diarrhoeal disease in children under five.