AbstractINTRODUCTION: Portable handheld computers and electronic data management systems have been used for national surveys in many high-income countries, however their use in developing countries has been challenging due to varying geographical, economic, climatic, political and cultural environments. In order to monitor and measure global adult tobacco use, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiated the Global Adult Tobacco Survey, a nationally representative household survey of adults, 15 years of age or older, using a standard core questionnaire, sample design, and data collection and management procedures. The Survey has been conducted in 14 low- and middle-income countries, using an electronic data collection and management system. This paper describes implementation of the electronic data collection system and associated findings. METHODS: The Survey was based on a comprehensive data management protocol, to enable standardized, globally comparable high quality data collection and management. It included adaptation to specific country needs, selection of appropriate handheld hardware devices, use of open source software, and building country capacity and provide technical support. RESULTS: In its first phase, the Global Adult Tobacco Survey was successfully conducted between 2008 and 2010, using an electronic data collection and management system for interviews in 302,800 households in 14 countries. More than 2,644 handheld computers were fielded and over 2,634 fieldworkers, supervisors and monitors were trained to use them. Questionnaires were developed and programmed in 38 languages and scripts. The global hardware failure rate was < 1% and data loss was almost 0%. CONCLUSION: Electronic data collection and management systems can be used effectively for conducting nationally representative surveys, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, irrespective of geographical, climatic, political and cultural environments, and capacity-building at the country level is an important vehicle for Health System Strengthening.
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