19 Aug

DHS eLearning Course Updated

Credit: Joanna Lowell, The DHS Program.

Credit: Joanna Lowell, The DHS Program.

How much can change in 4 years? I asked myself as I prepared to update the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS): Data Use eLearning course.  I thought I’d spend a day or two updating the links to reflect our new project name and websites, add a quick page on our new web tools and push out a new course in no time.  But once I started reviewing the four-year-old content, my document of revisions reached 15 pages.  How had this happened?  The DHS Program is known for its standard methodologies and consistency over time. How could the introductory two hour course on the DHS need such an overhaul after only four years?

The DHS: Data Use course provides an overview of the Demographic and Health Surveys. It covers many different topics such as:

  • Basics of survey design and implementation
  • The demographic and health statistics
  • Practice reading DHS tables
  • Protocol and implications of testing for HIV in a population-based survey
  • Tips for communication
  • Using DHS data for programs and policy making

And while most of this information hasn’t changed conceptually, shifting data needs and improving technology have changed the way we do surveys.

New topics and data needs: Five years ago, most DHS surveys focused on malnutrition as stunting and wasting.  Now, in many countries, our focus is on overnutrition.  Five years ago, we were talking about how to measure trends in HIV prevalence.  Now we are moving towards measuring HIV incidence, and even viral load.  Five years ago, many countries were concerned with reporting MDG data.  Now we work with partners to identify the next set of indicators that will track global progress towards health and development.

New technology.  Five years ago, a few countries had experimented with computer-assisted interviewing in DHS surveys.  This has now become the norm, with some countries even editing data in the field and transferring files electronically for immediate quality checks.  Technology has also changed the way we communicate DHS data and support data use. The DHS Program Mobile App, User Forum, and many social media platforms did not exist when the course was first developed in 2010.   The STATcompiler and Spatial Data Repository provide data visualization tools that go far beyond basic data tables, helping people see patterns in data and encouraging use by less technical audiences.

New project. Five years ago, we were MEASURE DHS.  In October 2013, MEASURE DHS became The DHS Program. With the new DHS project came new partners and a new priority area: capacity strengthening.  The updated eLearning course describes how DHS incorporates capacity strengthening into every stage of the survey and how we are working with countries to foster country ownership of DHS data.

I can’t wait to see where the next five years takes us, as a global community.  The DHS Program will be standing at the ready, eager to provide data to track our progress and our challenges, and prepared to try new techniques, ask new questions, and integrate new technology.   I look forward to updating the elearning course in another several years.  I’m sure I can’t even begin to imagine what some of those pages might look like.

For more information or to take the course, visit Demographic and Health Surveys: Data Use eLearning course.

As of June 2014, more than 5,900 learners had completed the DHS: Data Use course from 132 countries. 

12 Aug

The New DHS Program API: What Non-Developers Should Know

Don’t let the technical acronym scare you! While application developers and computer programmers are usually the direct users of APIs, the DHS API is a great tool for program managers and researchers.

What is an API?

An Application Programming Interface, or API, provides software developers with direct access to a database.  Developers can use the data in the database to populate websites and applications.  These applications can include data visualizations, tabular data for dissemination of information to specific stakeholders, or analysis.

How can the DHS API be used?

The DHS API connects users directly to the STATcompiler database of aggregated indicators.  That is, total fertility rates, mortality rates, and all of the almost 1500 indicators found in the STATcompiler for 90 countries over 30 years.   A developer at a maternal health project could select the maternal health indicators from a sub-sample of countries to populate a web page on key DHS data for the areas in which the project works.   Or a mobile app developer could use the DHS API to link STATcompiler data with other global health data and create a global development data visualization tool.

The API can also be used by analysts, as data can be returned in Stata-readable format, allowing for instant integration of indicator-level data into your Stata analysis.  The API website has a simple Stata Example page. It is also possible to open aggregated indicator data directly in Excel through the API, using the CSV format output.

We at The DHS Program will be using the Indicator Data API to populate statistics on our own website and our own mobile app, but we look forward to seeing other creative uses of DHS data.

How does the DHS API work?

The basic workings of the API are very simple, even for a non-developer.  A single URL contains all the information the database needs to return data.  For example, try copying the following URL into your browser:


This URL contains all the information the API needs to create a table about a given indicator (in this case Indicator ID – 20171000, which is total fertility rate) and three countries: Burkina Faso (BF), Burundi (BU), and Cameroon (CM).  The resulting web page gives us exactly that:  the Total Fertility rate for the three selected countries as well as some additional information about those surveys.    Don’t have time to search the documentation for country and indicator codes? The query builder allows users to select indicators and countries of interest, preview the output, and obtain the specific API call, that is, the URL needed to request those specific indicators and countries.  If you want a full list of the indicators, try this link.

What are the advantages to using an API?

Connecting to DHS data through the API ensures that you have up-to-date data, even as new countries and indicators are added or data are adjusted.   And while we think STATcompiler and DHS Mobile app are great, they aren’t customized to YOUR work.   The API will allow you to build interactive tools to showcase the data for the countries and areas you work in.

How do I start?

Visit http://api.dhsprogram.com/ for sample data calls, code samples, and all of the survey, country, and indicator documentation needed to communicate with the DHS API.  If you register to be an official DHS API partner you will receive an API key, allowing you a larger number of entries returned per page.  We may also be able to provide assistance in application development, promotion of the apps created by your team, and ongoing communication, allowing your feedback to influence future API development.

Details for developers:

The DHS API uses both a RESTful interface as well as a query-based interface. The API supports JSON, XML, HTML and CSV output formats. For more details, visit the DHS API website or follow our Twitter (@DHSprogramAPI).

06 Aug

Spotlight on Implementing Agencies: Mali

Malian visitors at DHS Headquarters

Malian visitors at DHS Headquarters

In May 2014, The DHS Program welcomed visitors from Mali. This is the fourth in a series of interviews with visitors to DHS headquarters. Don’t read French? You can use the translate feature at the top of the page!

Nom :

Traoré SEYDOU, Institut National de la Statistique

Keita SAMBA, Chef unité statistique, Ministère santé hygiène publique

Sidibe SIDI, Directeur adjoint cellule de la planification et de statistique secteur santé

Zima DIALLO, Chef de département de la recherche de la normalisation et des enquêtes statistiques, INSTAT

Pays d’origine :


Quand vous ne travaillez pas, quel est l’endroit  où vous préférez aller :

SAMBA : Promenade

SIDI : visiter la ville de Washington

DIALLO: Hôtel, supermarché, balade de parc

Chez vous, où a-t-on le plus de chances de vous trouver le samedi ?

SIDI :Au service pour finaliser les dossiers

DIALLO : Au bureau (samedi), église et maison (dimanche)

Qu’est-ce qui vous a le plus agréablement surpris lors de votre séjour au programme DHS ?

SEYDOU : L’organisation et la répartition des tâches au niveau d’ICF

SAMBA : Répartition des tâches et assiduité du personnel

Qu’est-ce qui vous manque le plus quand vous êtes ici ?

SIDI : Ma famille

Quelle est la plus grande différence entre le bureau du programme DHS et votre bureau dans votre pays ?

SIDI : Organisation du travail

DIALLO : La spécialisation de chaque cadre dans son domaine et la disponibilité y afférente.

2012-2013 Mali DHS Final Report

2012-2013 Mali DHS Final Report

Quelle est votre  page de couverture préférée ?

SAMBA : Celle adoptée par notre pays

SIDI : Couverture avec la tête de gazelle qui représente l’excellence

Quel est votre chapitre ou indicateur préféré, et pourquoi ? 

DIALLO : Allaitement, état nutritionnel et disponibilité alimentaire

Quel est le problème de population ou de santé qui vous

2006 Mali DHS Final Report

2006 Mali DHS Final Report

intéresse le plus, et pourquoi ?

SEYDOU : Mortalité des enfants puisque un problème de population sérieux au Mali

SAMBA : La pauvreté monétaire et les soins de santé

Comment espérez-vous que les données de l’EDS sur votre pays seront utilisées ?

SAMBA : Pour la mise en œuvre des politiques de santé et de précision dans les efforts à faire et les résultats à atteindre

DIALLO : Suivi et meilleur exécution des programmes de santé publique.

Qu’avez–vous appris en travaillant avec le programme DHS ?

SAMBA: Le respect du délai et le sérieux dans l’accomplissement de la tâche.

SIDI : Comment bien finaliser un rapport

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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