Counting hard-to-count populations: the network scale-up method for public health.

H. Russell Bernard, Tim Hallett, Alexandrina Iovita, Eugene C. Johnsen, Rob Lyerla, Christopher McCarty, Mary Mahy, Matthew J. Salganik, Tetiana Saliuk, Otilia Scutelniciuc, Gene A. Shelley, Petchsri Sirinirund, Sharon Weir, Donna F. Stroup

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

111 Scopus citations


Estimating sizes of hidden or hard-to-reach populations is an important problem in public health. For example, estimates of the sizes of populations at highest risk for HIV and AIDS are needed for designing, evaluating and allocating funding for treatment and prevention programmes. A promising approach to size estimation, relatively new to public health, is the network scale-up method (NSUM), involving two steps: estimating the personal network size of the members of a random sample of a total population and, with this information, estimating the number of members of a hidden subpopulation of the total population. We describe the method, including two approaches to estimating personal network sizes (summation and known population). We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each approach and provide examples of international applications of the NSUM in public health. We conclude with recommendations for future research and evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)ii11-15
JournalSexually transmitted infections
Volume86 Suppl 2
StatePublished - Dec 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Infectious Diseases
  • Dermatology


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