20 Sep

Making over the DHS Final Report: Formal and Academic to Colorful and User-Friendly

The new report features bulleted text and more than 80 color maps and graphs

Have you seen the new DHS Final Report style?  In June, the 2014 Lesotho DHS was published and is the first report to try out our new format featuring color graphics, maps, bulleted text, and standard indicator definition boxes.

While minor formatting and style changes have been introduced over the past 30 years, the DHS Final Report of 2013 looked much as it did in the 1990s.  In 2013, a more dramatic change was proposed:  to create a more modern and user-friendly report.  In 2015, the Lesotho Ministry of Health (MOH) 2014 DHS team agreed to be the first survey to utilize the new DHS final report style.

I had the pleasure of being in the capital city of Maseru to collect feedback on the new style.  I met with the report authors from the MOH, academics, program managers, donors, and UN agencies.  The positive response was overwhelming: everyone agreed that the new report was far more accessible, less intimidating, and would lead to better use of DHS data to inform decision  making.

Each chapter is introduced by a box of key findings, highlighted key trends, and patterns in the data

Leutsoa Matsoso, one of the report authors, commented, “This one is easier to get straight to the point.  I know the first [LDHS report] from 2004; it was also good, but there was a lot of ingredients before you get to the meat . . . for policy makers, for decision makers, it’s easy to see…Here [in the old report], if you take too long explaining, nobody ends up reading that information.”

Some of the more technical, academic stakeholders had expressed concern that a more user-friendly report might detract from its usefulness for analysts, but the new report style meets the needs of both audiences.  So have no fears: all of the DHS tables are still included in this report.  Mahlape Ramoseme, Director of the Health Planning and Statistics Department at the MOH explains, “You go [to the tables] if you want more than what is provided here [in the text], but the key findings give you what’s important . . .  Even the color, it catches the eye, you really want to read it.  It’s not too intimidating.”

Key definitions are provided in boxes, making them easier to understand and reference

Ultimately, the goal of The DHS Program is to provide assistance in the collection and use of data.  The 2014 LDHS data are already being used by the highest levels of government.  Mr. Matsoso credits the new report style with increasing ownership and use in Lesotho: “Now that Parliament has taken notice of the LDHS, and now that they themselves can see the trends and patterns without having to interpret tables, they will say, ‘we want to fund that because we want to know what is really happening.’   They will see the impact.”

And it sounds like the effects of the report change will carry beyond even the DHS in Lesotho.  Matsoso reported, “It was also capacity building for us, because we are used to writing reports but we normally do it in the narrative way.  This one we had to critically talk to the tables, talk to the data, try to find trends…This was very positive for us, because now when we prepare reports we will focus on the critical points.”

Many of the upcoming DHS surveys will be utilizing this new format piloted in Lesotho.  The DHS Program is still collecting feedback on the new Final Report style, and will incorporate comments into subsequent versions.  So explore the report today!  If you have feedback, please email Erica Nybro at Erica.Nybro@icfi.com.

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14 Sep

Reflections from Accra: A Look Back at the Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop

Group of participants and facilitators at the conclusion of the workshop

In August, The DHS Program Geospatial Team was in Accra, Ghana, hosting this year’s Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop to teach participants how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for public health decision-making and program planning. Participants, most of whom had never before used GIS in any capacity, learned the steps necessary to turn data from a table into a thematic map, working both together and independently to create maps and practice presenting them.

The workshop began with a review of Microsoft Excel techniques for cleaning and preparing indicator data to be used in a GIS software (for this workshop, the QGIS platform), which can often have very particular requirements for such data.  Once the data was cleared of errors and special characters, participants learned how to import this indicator data into a GIS and combine it with geographic data – stored in the form of a shapefile, which is a unique version of file type specifically used to store geographic information – merging the indicator data of a particular region or district to the shape of that area in the map.  Participants were then taught how to colorize the map appropriately, showing the difference between areas, emphasizing regions with higher or lower prevalence with intuitive color schemes, and overall making a visually appealing map.

Participants work in QGIS during a hands-on practice session

After completing four days’ worth of exercises and making maps under the guidance of the facilitators, participants had the opportunity to make their own maps from start to finish on the fifth day. Participants independently prepared these maps using their own program data or data from The DHS Program Spatial Data Repository. Each person had three minutes to present their map to the group and receive feedback on what worked well and identify areas for improvement. This allowed the participants to practice speaking about and presenting a map – an intangible but equally important skill.

Map made by one of the participants, using DHS data from Liberia

Map made by one of the participants, using DHS data from Liberia

While the workshop was focused on teaching participants the skills they needed to use GIS as part of their work, it also stressed the notion that participants would take these skills and knowledge gained in Accra back to their home countries and offices and pass on this information to their coworkers. We hope participants found this workshop to be informative, practical, and not least enjoyable!

Stay tuned for our final blog post, where we will be highlighting one participant in particular! Read the previous blog post in this series here.

For those who did not attend this workshop, The DHS Program offers numerous spatial data and GIS resources that can be used to self-teach. If you are interested in participating in future workshops, follow us on social media or sign up for our email alerts.

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07 Sep

Get ready for the new semester with The DHS Program

It’s that time of year again – back-to-school time! Whether you are a student preparing for the new semester or just eager to learn, we have compiled a handy list of tools and resources for you. Feel free to bookmark and revisit this page when you feel inspired or studious!

If you only have five minutes:

  • Download the mobile app for 24/7 access to DHS data (if you need some convincing, read this for details)
  • Do a quick trend analysis or pull up a visualization from STATcompiler
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to be informed of new and useful content, or just to say hi!

If you have an infinite amount of time and want to learn all there is to The DHS Program:

number3If you are ready to start analyzing DHS datasets:

If you need help with your research project:

If you are geographically focused:gis day 3

 

If you are the creative type:

If you prefer to get social: 

This list of resources should keep you busy for now! We will continue to update this post as we add more resources. Are you looking for a particular resource but don’t see it? Do you have ideas for other resources we can provide? Share them in the comments below, or send us an email at feedback@dhsprogram.com.

Our website also has a list of free student resources for you to explore.

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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.

The DHS Program, ICF
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