Proxy Responses for Mass Drug Administration Coverage Surveys: The Trends and Biases When Others are Allowed to Respond

Jose R, Bougma R, Drabo F, Tukahebwa EM, Mkwanda S, Gass K

Coverage surveys for mass drug administration (MDA) rely on respondent recall and often permit proxy responses, whereby another household member is allowed to respond on behalf of an absent individual. In this secondary analysis of coverage surveys in Malawi, Burkina Faso, and Uganda, we explore the characteristics of individuals who require proxy responses and quantify the association between proxy responses and reported drug coverage. The adjusted logistic regression model found that men 11-39 years and women 11-18 years who were eligible for MDA had greater odds of requiring a proxy response compared with ineligible men and women in the same age groups. A hierarchical multivariable analysis found that proxy responses had 1.70 times the odds of reporting ingestion of MDA drugs compared with first-person responses, controlling for age and sex (95% CI: 1.17, 2.46). This finding is surprising, given that individuals absent during a coverage survey may also have been absent during the MDA, and suggests that proxy responses may be leading to an inflation of survey estimates of drug coverage. This study highlights the possibility for recall bias in proxy responses to MDA coverage; however, excluding absent individuals from coverage surveys would introduce a new bias. Further research is necessary to determine the best method for obtaining information on drug coverage when individuals are absent.