04 Feb

Celebrating 12 Years of Service with The DHS Program

Laurie Liskin with the 2014 Kenya DHS team.
From left to right: M.G. Obudho, Michael Musyoka, Sara Head, Laurie Liskin, John K. Bore, Andrew Imbwaga, A.A. Awes (back), Christine Mbuli, Rebecca Kiptui, James Munguti (back)

After 12 years with The DHS Program, 58 trips to 17 countries, and almost 40 years in international development, I’ve decided to slow down.  As of January 2016, I will retire from full time work and explore the pleasures of retirement.

What to make of the past 12 years?  First, I marvel at how the field of dissemination has changed since I joined DHS in 2003.  So much of what is standard now—eLearning, tweets, infographics, data apps, and desktop video production, either did not exist a decade ago or was just beginning.  The field of dissemination and personal communication has exploded.  We can see the growth everywhere.  In Kenya, for example, only 13% of households had any kind of telephone in 2003.  Just 11 years later, in 2014, 86% of households have a mobile phone, many of them smart phones. Facebook is ubiquitous.   Access to information has never been easier.

Second, I am profoundly grateful for the chance to work with the dedicated team here at The DHS Program.  All of our staff—the diligent data processors, the incredibly creative dissemination team, talented researchers, capacity strengthening experts, the overworked survey managers, and of course, our stalwart program managers—are committed to ensuring that DHS, SPA, and MIS surveys are the highest quality possible.

Third, I cherish the opportunities I have had to collaborate with our country partners. After multiple trips to Tanzania, Bangladesh, and Kenya, in particular, I am lucky to have worked with survey specialists, communication experts, staff from USAID cooperating agencies, and our partners at USAID missions.  The work has been challenging, exciting, occasionally very frustrating, but most of all, lots of fun.

Best of all, the program welcomes a terrific new Senior Advisor for Communication. Erica Nybro has worked with The DHS Program since 2004 and has pioneered new products and activities including the DHS User Forum, the Mobile App, and training in data visualization.  I look forward to seeing her lead dissemination at The DHS Program in exciting new directions.

So, I bid farewell to my colleagues and friends in Rockville and around the world.  Thanks to all for a wonderful 12 years with The DHS Program.

20 Jan

Spotlight on New Staff: Allie Reese

Name: Allie Reese

Position title:  Social Media Specialist

Languages spoken: Sadly I only speak English fluently. But I can convey as much (or confidently say “hello”) in a few different languages:

Halo! Nggak bisa berbicara Bahasa Indonesia, tapi bisa mengerti.
Hola! Yo hablo Inglés, pero sé un poquito de español.
こんにちは! わたし は にほんご が はなせません。
!أهلا وسهلا

When not working, favorite place to visit:  I’d love a reason to travel and visit Indonesia! I have family there, I miss the food…

Favorite type of cuisine: It’s impossible to pick one single cuisine. Right now I’m craving fish and chips.

Last good book you read: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo. (Just don’t look at my desk.)

Where would we find you on a Saturday?  In bed asleep. If the weather is right I might be taking a long walk somewhere, looking for a good place to eat fish and chips.

FR275First time you worked with DHS survey data: Unwittingly while I was an undergraduate, writing a research paper on maternal mortality in Indonesia; I completed it just before the 2012 Indonesia DHS release.

What is on your desk (or bulletin board/wall) right now? I have a toy snake, some toy spiders I’ve kept from Halloween, and a miniature cat who sits on top of my monitor.

2014 Kenya DHSWhat is your favorite survey final report cover? Right now my favorite is the recent 2014 Kenya DHS.

Favorite chapter or indicator, and why?  Fertility and family planning, both telling and meaningful beyond being indicators of development.

What’s your favorite way to access The DHS Program’s data? I like reading hard copies of reports, but ultimately it’s through STATcompiler.

What population or health issue are you most passionate about?  Why? Women and girls, simply because women make up half of the world’s population and need to be treated like so.

What are you most looking forward to about your new position?  Engaging with our users via our social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter!

What has been your biggest surprise so far?  How much I learn each day – every time I feel like I’ve “got” something, there’s a caveat or several in there.

What do you look forward to bringing to The DHS Program (job-related or not!)? Dry wit, maybe some baked goods.

07 Jan

Video: Best of The DHS Program 2015

Take a look back at the highlights of The DHS Program from 2015…


The DHS Program welcomed several new staff members:



We released two helpful tutorial videos on sampling and weighting DHS data:



33 South-to-South consultants from 23 countries played an integral role in capacity strengthening for all aspects of survey planning and implementation:



A new publication was launched, the Key Indicators Report, to provide initial results of a survey:



More than 700,000 biomarker tests were completed, measuring HIV, anemia, malaria, and micronutrients.  11 South-to-South Consultants were trained for biomarker technical assistance:



We unveiled Beta STATcompiler and v2.0 of The DHS Program mobile app:



The Gambia released its first-ever DHS:



Users can now download citations for analytical, comparative, and trend reports:



And The DHS Program produced over 100 publications:



We hope you continue to follow us throughout 2016!

Watch the full video below:

16 Dec

Engaging with DHS Data in Senegal

Days like today are why I love my job. “Thematic data use workshops are the most important part of the survey,” Fatou CAMARA, director of the Senegal Continuous Survey at l’Agence Nationale de la Statistique et la Démographie (ANSD), tells me over dinner. “They’re also my favorite,” she adds. I couldn’t agree more. It’s always rewarding to watch people engage directly with data from The DHS Program surveys, but even more so when it’s the women and men who manage a country’s health programs.

Representatives from ANSD, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and USAID officially open the thematic workshop.

Representatives from ANSD, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and USAID officially open the thematic workshop.

The topics for the thematic workshop are maternal health, child health, and nutrition. Regional medical coordinators, reproductive health coordinators, and nutrition supervisors have come from all 14 of Senegal’s regions to participate. They are joined by the national maternal health, child survival, and nutrition program directors.

Senegal DHS and SPA Report CoversThe morning is packed with introductions and presentations on the relevant results from the Senegal Continuous Survey. Data is collected each year in Senegal and the results are designed to guide program planning, monitoring, and evaluation. The Senegal Continuous Survey has two parts: 1) the Continuous DHS, which collects data on households, women, men, and children; and 2) the Continuous SPA, which collects data on health facilities, health care providers, and clients receiving health care.

Participants review the dissemination materials for the Continuous Survey.

Participants review the dissemination materials for the Continuous Survey.

Questions and comments during the discussion following the presentations are intriguing. “We trained our health care providers on the integrated management of childhood illness, but the [survey] results show that they aren’t putting this into practice during sick child consultations.” “Almost a quarter of births still occur at home instead of health facilities, though the availability of delivery services is high. We need to increase our communication efforts with women.” Continuous SPA coordinator, Dr Ibou GUISSE, and the director of field operations for the Continuous DHS, Mabeye DIOP, do an excellent job of providing detailed answers and explanations.

The afternoon begins with an activity on how to read and understand tables from the Continuous Survey. Participants are guided step-by-step, from reading the title and subtitle to finding the totals in the table. Over lunch, a participant tells me that the activity is useful, “Previously, I sometimes struggled to make sense of the tables. Now I’m more confident.”

Participants identify priority actions from their regional strategic plans during group work.

Participants identify priority actions from their regional strategic plans during group work.

The rest of the day is dedicated to group work. Each region must identify two priority actions from their regional strategic health plans that will be completed in the six months after the workshop. They must also indicate specific results from the Continuous Survey that support the actions they have chosen. Finally, they must create an action plan for these priority actions, including next steps and deadlines. The groups are so engrossed in the group work that they continue well past 6 PM. Tomorrow, they will present their priority actions, supporting data, and action plans. I can hardly wait see to see the data in action!

09 Dec

Global Health Gets Social

© 2013 Phoebe Gullunan, Courtesy of Photoshare

© 2013 Phoebe Gullunan, Courtesy of Photoshare

In 2012 when the Social Media for Global Health and Development working group started, many people were searching for some guidance on how to do social media for global health. The group started small with just a few interested organizations and has since grown to over 500 around the world. The need for social media technical assistance has increased and was the inspiration for the development of a new Global Health eLearning Center course, Social Media for Global Health and Development. The course provides tips and resources for using social media in one free and easy-to-use place.

The course provides an introduction to social media and how it can be used in global health and development. It gives a rationale for why social media is important with examples from organizations such as DefeatDD, Maternal and Child Survival Program, and the USAID | Deliver Project. The course also provides an overview of the top global platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and more. Global health and development professionals can learn how to integrate social media within their programs with a step-by-step guide on creating a strategy and measuring social media.

The course targets beginner to intermediate social media users. There are helpful hints, case studies, and links to more information so learners can start their social media and do it effectively. Register today at the Global Health eLearning Center to begin the two hour course.

Anatomy of a Tweet

02 Dec

ASTMH 64th Annual Meeting: #IAmTropMed


What do an Ebola treatment unit, the history of malaria in art, and malaria elimination all have in common? These were just some of the sessions available to participants of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) 64th Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

From October 25-29, 2015, three members of The DHS Program analysis group attended the conference to learn more about the new and innovative ideas emerging in the field of tropical medicine. Some topics of interest include data collection strategies for monitoring and evaluating seasonal malaria chemoprevention (SMC), as well as improvements in malaria diagnostic tools.

CT Poster

While at the conference, three posters were presented by The DHS Program staff:

These three posters were only a fraction of the posters that used or cited DHS data. Many presentations cited DHS data in their background sections and used DHS data in their analysis. Conference attendees also included past DHS workshop participants who continue to use DHS data for their jobs.

IamtropmedIn his opening address to the conference, former administrator for USAID Dr. Rajiv Shah commented, “so many of you are drawn to this conference because of your passion to protect those who are vulnerable…to eradicate diseases you know disproportionately affect the poorest communities in the world.” Indeed, the shared passion was tangible and energizing for The DHS Program staff.

If you are interested in tropical medicine, be sure to check out recent DHS analytical reports that use malaria data:

18 Nov

GIS Day 2015

I love maps! They are a great way to understand and visualize data, especially when you are looking to understand how place might influence certain health behaviors or outcomes. Luckily, I spend my days here at The DHS Program preparing data for maps, making maps, talking about maps, teaching others to make maps, and thinking of new ways to share maps with the whole world.  The good news is that you don’t have to be a Geographic Information System (GIS) professional to appreciate or even make your own maps using DHS data.

gis day 1

STATcompiler is a great tool that can allow you to visualize DHS data in many ways including via maps. These maps can be seen both at the national and sub-national level, and allow for various customizations including colors and number of categories.

gis day 3The Spatial Data Repository (SDR) is also a tool that can be used by non-GIS professionals to view maps and DHS geographic information. The boundaries page allows anyone to visualize the change in sub-national borders between various surveys. This can be very useful for analysts, survey planners, and individuals interested in sub-national trends over time.

For a full view, please visit spatialdata.dhsprogram.com/SAR12 

The gallery page has maps that have been created by The DHS Program and others using DHS data. Maps located in the gallery are tagged in different ways so that you can find the topic or countries you are most interested in. These maps are created for specific reports, presentations, or other activities. Recently, we created a series of interactive maps as an online supplement to the Spatial Analysis Report 12 Report. These maps allow viewers to explore the report data more in depth and click on a country region to see more information for the indicator selected.

You too can participate in the online map gallery: create an original map using at least some DHS Program data (either downloaded from the SDR or data created using other resources), and submit the map to spatialdata@dhsprogram.com. Static maps (JPG, PDF, etc.) or interactive web maps/apps are welcome. We will review your map and if appropriate for inclusion on SDR, we will contact you to get your permission to upload it to the site.

Stay tuned in early 2016 for our SDR Gallery Map Contest, where your winning submission to the gallery can even earn you a prize! Any other time of year, your submission will still get your name and map visible to a whole world of viewers (prize enough for some!).

Happy GIS Day 2015! Now go make a map or go look at some maps!

04 Nov

Capacity Strengthening at Makerere University

Undergraduate students attentively listen to the presentation on The DHS Program.

By Betty Kwagala

Makerere University is one of the oldest Universities in Africa. Over the past 4 years, four teams of DHS Fellows (12 Fellows in all) have been selected from Makerere. Fellows have been drawn from School of Statistics and Planning, College of Business and Management Sciences and School of Public Health, College of Health Sciences. The two schools are closely related and work together in various ways including training, supervision of students’ research and faculty research in public health, population and reproductive health. DHS data are vital in several graduate and postgraduate courses taught in these two schools and a considerable number of faculty members also engage in research involving further DHS data analyses. The two schools had a second team of DHS Fellows this year.

I am among the faculty members at the School of Statistics and Planning of Makerere University that use DHS datasets for research. I had previously analysed DHS data but wanted to learn more about DHS data and be better equipped to use it in teaching and mentoring students. Therefore together with other two colleagues Ms. Olivia Nankinga and Dr. Cyprian Misinde in the Department of Population Studies, we applied for and were selected to participate in the 2015 DHS Fellows program.  During the program, I learned a lot ranging from sampling procedures, understanding complex indicators in DHS reports to correct analysis of DHS data.  My practical knowledge of Stata improved significantly.  I was impressed by the high quality of facilitation. Approaches used were adult sensitive, providing optimum opportunity for learning.  I appreciated the approach of learning by doing and emphasis on teamwork. The facilitators were highly knowledgeable, professional, yet empathetic and patient with the participants. The south-south co-facilitation of the workshop was excellent. Resources provided as part of the program are very useful.

Cyprian Misinde facilitating an undergraduate training session

Cyprian Misinde facilitating an undergraduate training session.

One of the objectives of the DHS Fellows Program is to increase the capacity to use DHS data in Fellows’ home universities through capacity-building activities implemented by the Fellows.  At the School of Statistics and Planning, few members of the School research teams were knowledgeable about proper analysis of DHS data or the rationale for the recommended procedures for analysis. Consequently, many staff members could not guide students appropriately. DHS data are often used inappropriately by staff and students.  To fill these gaps, working together with Ms. Nankinga and Dr. Misinde we implemented several activities that were designed to improve the capacity to use DHS data in the School.

For example, we held a training workshop titled “Appropriate use of DHS/AIS data for graduate and undergraduate students in the School of statistics and Planning 2014-2015 academic year” on 21st to 22nd August for graduate students at the School of Statistics and Planning. All masters programs were represented namely Masters in Statistics, Quantitative Economics, Population and Reproductive Health and Demography. The students are in the process of developing proposals for their master’s dissertations.  On average, thirty seven students attended the training each day.

Betty Kwagala facilitating a session.

Betty Kwagala facilitating a session.

To address the data need among undergraduates, we also conducted a half-day training that involved 44 third year students of pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Population Studies. They are expected to conduct research and write a dissertation as a partial fulfillment of the program requirements in the final year. Students were inquisitive and remained attentive throughout the sessions.

In addition, as part of our supervisory role, we are ensuring that students register to use the datasets, and that their proposals/dissertations take into account important elements of DHS data analysis (82 students have been trained and 20 supervised). We have integrated DHS content in our research methods courses. Two of the Fellows in the second team, Dr. Simon Kasasa and Ms. Allen Kabagenyi, conducted the first orientation session for Biostatistics students last month at the School of Public Health, in conjunction with Prof.  Nazarius Mbona Tumwesigye and Prof. Robert Wamala.

Some of the key opportunities for the department and the school include keen interest and strong teamwork among faculty and the fact that the faculty and students were already using the datasets. Our research team has prepared an additional manuscript based on the UDHS (under review). We hope to collaborate more on DHS based research at school and university levels and possibly with our fellow alumni regionally.  The enthusiasm and interest of the students and their associations in proper analysis of DHS data is an important opportunity.  The training process has however been challenged by strikes of staff and students at the university and limited access to computers on the part of students.

Personally, I learned beyond my expectations and had a lot of fun as well. I highly recommend the Fellows program particularly for population, health and development researchers and lecturers for the benefit of our students, clients and careers.


Betty KwagalaBetty Kwagala is a Senior Lecturer at Makerere University School of Statistics and Planning, Department of Population Studies. Prior to lecturing, she was a research fellow at Makerere Institute of Social Research. She now combines lecturing and research using mixed methods. She extensively uses DHS reports as reference materials for demographic and health statistics and a guide to designing survey questionnaires and DHS datasets for research. Her publications are mainly focused on gender relations, reproductive health, and health in general. Publications based on DHS data address gender based violence, contraception, and sexually transmitted infections. She was a 2015 DHS fellow.

28 Oct

Spotlight on Implementing Agencies: Cambodia

Names: Phan Chinda, They Kheam, and Chhay Satia of the National Institute of Statistics/Ministry of Planning; Sok Kosal, Loun Mondol, and Lam Phirun of the Directorate General for Health/Ministry of Health; and Sarah Balian of The DHS Program

Country of origin: Cambodia

When not working, favorite place to visit:

Lom Phirun: Washington, DC.

What has been the nicest surprise visiting The DHS Program HQ?

Chhay Satia: It’s a nice place with friendly people.

What do you miss most about home when you are here?

Loun Mondol: Food and family.

2014 Cambodia DHSWhat is your favorite DHS final report cover?
All: 2014 Cambodia DHS with Angkor Wat Temple.

Favorite DHS chapter or indicator, and why?
Sok Kosal: Domestic violence, because it’s a new chapter for Cambodia and it specifies the different experiences of violence.

Lam Phirun: Maternal and child mortality, fertility rate, need for family planning, maternal health, and child health because all topics are related to my work/program.

What population or health issue are you most passionate about? Why?

Sok Kosal: Child health is an important issue because it alerts us to take attention on child immunizations and illnesses.

Chhay Satia: I believe domestic violence is an important issue for Cambodian culture as it’s not right to treat women badly.

They Kheam: Abortion at home, because this could be caused by a mother or woman’s health problems.

Phan Chinda: Child mortality is a key topic because it is very important for Cambodia’s strategy and policy.

Loun Mondol: Maternal mortality as well as nutritional status for women and children are important indicators because maternal and child health is still a priority issue in my country.

How do you hope the DHS data from your country will be used?

Sok Kosal: Cambodia DHS data should be used for program management and policy formation,  especially monitoring and evaluation of Cambodia’s 2015 Millennium Development Goals.

What have you learned from the DHS experience?

Loun Mondol: How to search for information and data on the DHS website, tools, maps, and the user forum.

21 Oct

Three Perspectives on the DHS Fellows Program from 2015 Fellows


2015 DHS Fellows

2015 DHS Fellows and DHS staff

The DHS Fellows Program brings participants together to strengthen their individual analytical skills and to sustainably increase their university’s capacity for using DHS data. As this year’s Fellows Program drew to a close we asked three Fellows, Allen Kabagenyi (Makerere University), Simona Joseph Simona (University of Zambia), and Clara Ladi Ejembi (Ahmadu Bello University), to reflect on their experience with the Fellows Program and with our data.

Overall Fellows Program and workshops

Simona: The 2015 DHS fellowship brought together five wonderful three-member teams from Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. I was a member of a team of participants from the Department of Social Development Studies at the University of Zambia.

Allen: Participants came from diverse backgrounds including: social sciences, medicine, statistics, demography and epidemiology.

Clara: The fellowship program comprised of two workshops and activities we undertook in-country in our institutions. Over the course of the two workshops, facilitated by two very amiable DHS staff and co-facilitated by three previous DHS Fellows, we were given hands-on training on the use of the DHS data in our research work.

Allen: During the first workshop in Kampala, Uganda, we were introduced to the capacity building program, DHS questionnaires, sampling and weighting, online tools, data structure and files among others. Furthermore, we learnt about The DHS Program, what they do, the coverage, target population and mandate.

A subsequent workshop was held in Zambia, where participants learnt about estimation of maternal, infant and child mortality using DHS data and Service Provision Assessment (SPA) tools. During the trainings, we were accorded a chance to present our projects and developed publishable DHS working papers with support from the DHS technical team.

Our achievements

Clara: We sent an abstract which was accepted for presentation at the forthcoming International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia. We also secured approval for presentation of our research work at the forthcoming national conference of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria.

Allen: Results from our DHS-research fellowship will be presented in the forthcoming International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia. It is an honor to have an oral presentation to stakeholders and professionals in the field of reproductive health. Our manuscript is ready for journal submission we are looking forward to having it published.

Simona: We are in the process of editing our paper for the targeted peer reviewed journal. We are also exploring a few other topics and collaborations with a view of preparing more papers and publications based on the DHS dataset.

Capacity strengthening at our university

Allen: Given the number of DHS fellows at Makerere University, plans are underway at the School of Statistics to have DHS data utilization integrated in teaching and research. At the department, there are on-going research projects based on DHS data from colleagues with some manuscripts submitted for review and publication. Masters students at the School of Public Health – Makerere University were excited and showed interest in future use.

Clara: At Ahmadu Bello University, we have been able to sensitize the university management and the university faculty on use of DHS data for teaching and research; and also on the fellowship program so that hopefully, more teams will apply from our institution this year. We have started the process of integrating DHS into our lectures in demography and statistics in the department.

Simona: I am happy to see that our participation in the DHS fellowship is already beginning to impact positively on our colleagues and students in our department through the capacity building plans we have started implementing. It is gratifying to see the level of enthusiasm among colleagues and students regarding the potential of the DHS data. I am positive that going forward, the DHS data will be integrated in our teaching and research activities and eventually yield many more publications.

Benefits of the Fellows Program

Simona: It was fulfilling to see the development of our paper as the Zambian team. The process of preparing it under the guidance of facilitators from The DHS Program and the co-facilitators was rigorous and yet empowering. We have acquired skills that will obviously be invaluable in our careers beyond the DHS fellowship.

Allen: The benefits of the program are countless from learning about The DHS Program, to acquiring skills in data analysis, appreciating the use of DHS data, networking and sharing information. Discussing country specific problems increased our understanding about other countries in the region.

Final words

Allen: It’s no doubt that I would recommend other people to participate in this fellowship as it is one of the best capacity building programs for teaching staff in strengthening their analytical and data utilization skills.

Simona: Personally, the DHS fellowship has been nothing short of inspirational and I am sure that the DHS data will form an integral part of my scholarship henceforth. I would urge eligible scholars in the coming years to grab the opportunity provided by the DHS fellowship.

Clara: Thank you very much DHS, for the opportunity to participate in one of the most enriching training programs I have undertaken in a long time.

We applaud all the 2015 DHS Fellows for their hard work and achievements! Be sure to read their papers, the final products from the 2015 DHS Fellows Program:


Allen KabagenyiAllen Kabagenyi is a THRiVE PhD fellow from Makerere University, School of Statistics and Planning in Collaboration with University of Cambridge-UK. Her PhD research seeks to understand the explanations for the persistent high fertility rates in Uganda and low use of contraception. She lectures in Department of Population studies, School of Statistics and Planning.

Simona Joseph SimonaSimona Joseph Simona is a lecturer at the University of Zambia in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. He was appointed lecturer after completing his master of research (M.Res) degree in sociology and research methods from the University of Glasgow in 2013. His areas of interest are mainly in sociology of health and illness, gender based violence and social science research methods.

Clara Ladi EjembiDr. Clara Ladi Ejembi is a Fellow of the Medical College of Public Health, and works as a Consultant Community Physician with the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital. Her areas of research and activism interests include reproductive health, maternal and child health, primary health care and HIV/AIDS and she has published in these areas.

The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

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