ICDDR,B maintains one of the richest, most comprehensive and longest running, longitudinal data resources in the developing world, producing regular accurate demographic and health data for rural Bangladesh. With over 40 years of continuous demographic information on a population of over 200,000 people, Matlab is our major rural field site, and a major public health resource for the world. The site is a model for public health strategies around the world. Public health decision makers often refer to Matlab to understand underlying factors that are important for making decisions regarding intervention design.
The Health and Demographic Surveillance System at Matlab covers a population of about 225,000, providing data necessary to plan, conduct, and evaluate various types of public-health intervention research. The surveillance system’s key role is to monitor population exposure accurately over time to derive health and demographic rates and ratios, and assess impacts of health and social interventions. Structured interviews are conducted to register birth, death, marriage, divorce, migration, internal movement and household split every two months in all households in the 142 villages. Periodic socioeconomic surveys also collect information on occupation and household assets.
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This data set comprises health, demographic, and social characteristics, at the individual and household level, and furthermore can be linked to numerous additional research and clinical information. This extraordinary array of interrelated information is invaluable in a country where there are no accurate vital registrations and scant resources to develop health information systems and monitor trends in the nation’s health. Already these data have enabled a diverse range of investigations which have resulted in significant contributions to our understanding of health, demographic and environmental issues and changes over time, at a national level and within the context of global health. The outcomes have also led to considerable improvement in the health of the field site populations and the whole of Bangladesh.
40 years of population surveillance: sharing knowledge, improving health