Time trends in the use of field-substitution in the Belgian health interview survey

Stefaan Demarest, Geert Molenberghs, Finaba Berete, Rana Charafeddine, Herman Van Oyen & Guido Van Hal

Arch Public Health 80, 229 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13690-022-00982-4



Matched field-substitution has been applied in the Belgian Health Interview Survey (BHIS) since the first round. During data-collection, non-participating households are replaced by substitute households, if needed up to seven times. In this manuscript, the use of field-substitution in the six rounds of BHIS (1997–2018) is assessed. We investigated to what extent field-substitution contributes to obtaining the requested net-sample size and whether this has evolved throughout the successive BHIS’s.


Harmonized para-data gathered throughout de data-collection phases are used to define the final participation status of all households that could be contacted for participation to the survey. The share of the substituted households was calculated and possible trends in the use of field-substitution throughout the successive surveys was assessed using logistic regression. Finally, it was examined whether the application of field-substitution changed in terms of the position of the participating household in the clusters, using the ESTIMATE statement in the SAS procedure NLMIXED.


Overall, four in ten participating households are substitute households. This proportion remains rather similar over the surveys. The probability of participating according to the position of the household within the cluster is evidently much higher in households at the first position of initial selected clusters. Over the survey-years, the share of participating household derived from substitute clusters in the total number of participating households has slightly increased.


Field-substitution in BHIS plays a very substantial role in obtaining the requested net sample both in size and composition. Field-substitution, as applied in BHIS might inspire scientists to consider it when developing their surveys.

Read the full article in Archives of Public Health.

Time trends in the use of field-substitution in the Belgian health interview survey