Cohort profile: Bandim Health Project's (BHP) rural Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) - A nationally representative HDSS in Guinea-Bissau

Sanne Marie Thysen, Manuel Fernandes, Christine Stabell Benn, Peter Aaby, Ane Bærent Fisker*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Purpose Bandim Health Project (BHP) monitors health and survival of women and children in a nationally representative rural Health and Demographic Surveillance System (HDSS) in Guinea-Bissau. The HDSS was set up in 1989-1990 to collect data on health interventions and child mortality. Participants The HDSS covers 182 randomly selected clusters across the whole country. The cohort is open, and women and children enter the cohort, when they move into the selected clusters, and leave the cohort, when they move out or die, or when children reach 5 years of age. Data are collected through biannual or more frequent household visits. At all village visits, information on pregnancies, vital status, vaccination status, arm circumference, use of bed nets and other basic information is collected for women and children. Today, more than 25 000 women and 23 000 children below the age of 5 years are under surveillance. Findings to date Research from the BHP has given rise to the hypothesis that vaccines, in addition to their targeted effects, have important non-specific effects altering the susceptibility to other infections. Initially, it was observed that mortality among children vaccinated with the live BCG or measles vaccines was much lower than the mortality among unvaccinated children, a difference, which could not be explained by prevention of tuberculosis and measles infections. In contrast, mortality tended to be higher for children who had received the non-live Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis vaccine compared with children who had not received this vaccine. Since the effect differed for the different vaccines, no bias explained the contrasting findings. Future plans New health interventions are introduced with little assessment of real-life effects. Through the HDSS, we can describe both the implementation of interventions (eg, the vaccination programme) and their effects. Furthermore, the intensive follow-up allows the implementation of randomised trials testing potential better vaccination programmes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere028775
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 11. Jun 2019



  • community child health
  • health and demographic surveillance system
  • maternal mortality
  • non-specific (heterologous) effects of vaccines

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