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Developing overall objectives of the survey

Overall objectives usually describe some or all of the following:

  • Population group(s) to be covered

  • Micronutrient(s) and related health indicators to assess

  • Methods for assessing nutritional status (such as anthropometry)

  • Relevant indicators of ongoing programmes or interventions, for example:

    • Coverage of large-scale nutrition-specific interventions, including fortifiable or fortified foods, fortified products, and/or supplements

    • Specific practices for infant and young child feeding (IYCF)

    • Dietary diversity, and/or frequency of consuming specific (fortifiable or fortified) foods

    • Knowledge and practice in relation to large-scale nutrition-specific interventions

  • Level of stratification for which representative data will be available for each population group.

The overall survey objectives and key aspects of the survey design, for example the population groups and the planned level of precision for estimates of micronutrient status, should take into consideration the data that stakeholders need for programme planning, monitoring and evaluation. The objectives will influence subsequent aspects of survey planning, such as sample size, laboratory assays, questionnaire design, field logistics and budget requirements. They also need to consider technical feasibility and cost.

At the planning stage, it is essential to weigh essential data needs against optional data interests. For example, stakeholders may determine that iron deficiency among children 6–59 months of age is the primary indicator for the survey. Based on this, the sample size calculations should ensure a level of precision for estimates of iron deficiency in this population group that will be useful for effective programme management and decision-making. This sample size is then the basis for estimating much of the proposed cost of fieldwork. The available budget and other needs should then determine whether assessing additional micronutrients and other indicators of interest can be included as survey objectives, with or without adjustments to the desired sample size.

Examples of survey objectives can be found online in the “Malawi Micronutrient Survey protocol” as well as in the national survey reports from Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania, and Zambia that can be found in Module 16, Survey reports and dissemination. For those interested in coverage surveys that are not specifically focused on micronutrients, the Johns Hopkins RADAR project ( provides a set of tools for general household surveys.