08 Jul

DHS Data: More than demographic and health indicators

Telephone lines in an alley in Koloba village, Minya province, Egypt.   © 2008 Catherine Harbour, Courtesy of Photoshare

Cables stretch across an alley in Koloba village, Minya province, Egypt.             © 2008 Catherine Harbour, Courtesy of Photoshare

In 2006, I was working as a sampling statistician at the Public Opinion Poll Center (POPC) in Egypt where I met Dr. Sahar El-Tawila.  I discovered that she had used 2005 Egypt Demographic and Health Survey data in a nontraditional way: to explore the differences between households that owned landline phones and households that did not. At the time, most survey work in Egypt was done via landline phone surveys, and she had highlighted a serious non-coverage problem: many households in Egypt did not have a landline and were therefore not being reached.

2005 Egypt DHS

2005 Egypt DHS

Exploring the differences between the landline and non-landline households with DHS data was crucial to guiding telephone survey methodology both at POPC and more generally in Egypt. Our conversations about the way she used the data so inspired me that I changed my master’s degree thesis topic so that I could further extend her research, under her supervision.

In our research, based on the 2005 DHS data, when about 56% of households had a landline telephone, individuals in non-landline households tended to live in rural areas and to be less educated and poorer than individuals in landline households. This meant that using landline telephone surveys as a sole interviewing tool was very risky, since it would not cover a significant portion of the population with varied characteristics (see Figure 1).

Landline & non-landline households in Egypt.

Figure 1

Although we were able to partially adjust for the non-coverage problem with a limited post-stratification technique using DHS data, our recommendations included moving to dual-frame designs, in which data are collected through landline phones and cell phones. Although this recommendation seemed complicated–especially for a country still in early days of conducting telephone surveys—it was well received.  Starting in 2013, some of the more adventurous public opinion centers, such as Baseera, decided to take the lead and conduct dual-frame surveys, paving the way for telephone surveys that now cover most of the Egyptian population.

Although published information about landline coverage in Egypt existed, without the DHS it would have been impossible to explore the characteristics of the populations covered and not covered by landline phones–and to evaluate this “non-coverage” problem. We also used the DHS to identify the coverage covariates to be able to adjust for the problem. Even in order to design the dual-frame survey, the DHS was needed to determine the allocation between the two samples and to adjust the sampling weights. Since the last DHS conducted in Egypt was in 2008, survey practitioners eagerly await the 2014 Egypt DHS data.

As a rich dataset, the DHS is used as a source for many population demographic estimates. These estimates can be used to guide survey practices and to adjust survey estimates. Even before I joined The DHS Program, I dealt with the DHS as a data user and I realized how this survey is important not only for its explicit objectives, but also for other purposes, ones we may not even recognize–but we know users continue to find innovative ways to use DHS data. Have you ever used DHS data in a cross-disciplinary setting? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

23 Jun

Spotlight on New Staff: Luis Sevilla

This is the third in a series of posts introducing readers to new staff at The DHS Program. Welcome, Luis!

Luis Sevilla

Luis Sevilla

Name: Luis Sevilla

Position title:  Survey Manager

Languages spoken: Spanish, English, and Portuguese

When not working, favorite place to visit: El Salvador

Favorite type of cuisine: Peruvian and Mozambican cuisine

Last good book you read: An old book but one of my favorites – The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

Where could we find you on a Saturday? Exploring Maryland and Washington DC with my wife.

First time you worked with DHS survey data: In graduate school.

2012 Indonesia DHS

2012 Indonesia DHS

What is on your desk (or bulletin board/wall) right now? Ekeko doll (Peru) and Ndebele doll (South Africa) for good luck as well as several documents for my work in Kenya and Mozambique.

What is your favorite survey final report cover?  The 2012 Indonesia DHS.

What’s your favorite way to access The DHS Program’s data?  I use the mobile app as well as the DHS website. I am looking forward to trying out the IDHS website.

What population or health issue are you most passionate about?  Why?  I am very interested in HIV indicators. I consider vulnerability to disease to be both a cause and effect of poverty and one worth exploring further. Specifically, I am interested in learning more about the impact of HIV/AIDS on food security and human capital.

What are you most looking forward to about your new position?  I am looking forward to collaborating with other DHS Program staff in implementing DHS surveys. I am also looking forward to working in and traveling to different countries.

What has been your biggest surprise so far? The complexity at each stage of the survey process.

What do you look forward to bringing to The DHS Program (job-related or not!)? I’m looking forward to applying what I have learned from previous survey work and to gaining more experience & knowledge from fellow DHS staff.

And lastly…who are you rooting for in the #DHSWorldCupIn an ideal world, the winning team would be from a new country (i.e., I don’t want to see Brazil, Italy, Argentina, etc. win). Among DHS countries, I would love to see Ghana win, especially since they almost made it to the semifinals in 2010. They have a good team, but the problem is that they have a really tough group! It would be amazing to see an African team win the World Cup! Among all 32 countries, I’m rooting for Mexico and Chile, as well.

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