Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
SILVA, Luis Carlos; ORDUNEZ, Pedro; RODRIGUEZ, María Paz and ROBLES, Sylvia. A tool for assessing the usefulness of prevalence studies done for surveillance purposes: the example of hypertension. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2001, vol.10, n.3, pp. 152-160. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892001000900002.
Every year dozens of cross-sectional studies are carried out that estimate the prevalence of risk factors for chronic noncommunicable diseases. Given that, there is potentially a large amount of information that could be extremely useful for risk factor surveillance. However, there are good reasons to question the methodological rigor and the reliability of the results coming from many of these studies. The potential benefits of the data are curtailed by the studies' shortcomings, in part often because there is no clear and explicit methodological information providing the details needed to assess the procedures that were actually used, as well as a failure to apply a uniform methodology that would allow comparisons over time or across studies. This paper is intended to be both a didactic and practical tool. It describes the construction of an instrument for assessing the usefulness of prevalence studies done within the context of surveillance activities, using the example of hypertension. The paper discusses and illustrates the most common pitfalls found with prevalence studies, and it also offers methodological standards that can guide future prevalence studies as well as stimulate future research efforts in this area.
Keywords : Surveillance; prevalence; hypertension; risk factors; research methodology.