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The PROBIT approach in estimating the prevalence of wasting: revisiting bias and precision
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    Background

    The PROBIT methodology was presented in the 1995 World Health Organization Technical Report on Anthropometry as an alternative to the standard prevalence based method of measuring malnutrition in children. Theoretically the PROBIT method will always give a smaller standard error than the standard prevalence method in measuring malnutrition. A recent article by Dale et al. assessed the PROBIT method for measuring global acute malnutrition measure and found that the method was biased and the precision was superior only for sample sizes less than 150 when compared to the standard method. In a manner similar to Dale, our study further investigated the bias and precision of the PROBIT method for different sample sizes using simulated populations.

    Results

    The PROBIT method showed bias for each of the ten simulated populations, but the direction and magnitude of the average bias was changed depending on the simulated population. For a given simulated population, the average bias was relatively constant for all sample sizes drawn. The 95% half-width confidence interval was lower for the PROBIT method than the standard prevalence method regardless of the sample size or simulated population. The absolute difference in the confidence limits showed the most gains for the PROBIT method for the smaller samples sizes, but the ratio of confidence intervals was relatively constant across all sample sizes.

    Conclusions

    The PROBIT method will provide gains in precision regardless of the sample size, but the method may be biased. The direction and magnitude of the bias depends on the population it is drawn from.