Measuring Disability in Population Based Surveys: The Interrelationship between Clinical Impairments and Reported Functional Limitations in Cameroon and India.

Peer-reviewed article
(2016 Oct) PLoS One, 11 e0164470


Mactaggart I, Kuper H, Murthy GV, Oye J, Polack S



To investigate the relationship between two distinct measures of disability: self-reported functional limitations and objectively-screened clinical impairments.


We undertook an all age population-based survey of disability in two areas: North-West Cameroon (August/October 2013) and Telangana State, India (Feb/April 2014). Participants were selected for inclusion via two-stage cluster randomised sampling (probability proportionate to size cluster selection and compact segment sampling within clusters). Disability was defined as the presence of self-reported functional limitations across eight domains, or presence of moderate or greater clinical impairments. Clinical impairment screening comprised of visual acuity testing for vision impairment, pure tone audiometry for hearing impairment, musculoskeletal functioning assessment for musculoskeletal impairment, reported seizure history for epilepsy and reported symptoms of clinical depression (depression adults only). Information was collected using structured questionnaires, observations and examinations.


Self-reported disability prevalence was 5.9% (95% CI 4.7-7.4) and 7.5% (5.9-9.4) in Cameroon and India respectively. The prevalence of moderate or greater clinical impairments in the same populations were 8.4% (7.5-9.4) in Cameroon and 10.5% (9.4-11.7) in India. Overall disability prevalence (self-report and/or screened positive to a moderate or greater clinical impairment) was 10.5% in Cameroon and 12.2% in India, with limited overlap between the sub-populations identified using the two types of tools. 33% of participants in Cameroon identified to have a disability, and 45% in India, both reported functional limitations and screened positive to objectively-screened impairments, whilst the remainder were identified via one or other tool only. A large proportion of people with moderate or severe clinical impairments did not self-report functional difficulties despite reporting participation restrictions.


Tools to assess reported functional limitation alone are insufficient to identify all persons with participation restrictions and moderate or severe clinical impairments. A self-reported functional limitation tool followed by clinical screening of all those who report any level of difficulty would identify 94% of people with disabilities in Cameroon and 95% in India, meeting the study criteria.