25 Jan

A New DHS Questionnaire: Interviewing Fieldworkers

There’s a new survey in town. But it’s probably not what you expect. For 30 years, The DHS Program has trained thousands of fieldworkers to conduct over 300 surveys – but who are these fieldworkers? It is well documented that interviewers affect the quality of the data being collected, for example, in the areas of response rates and response validity. So what interviewer characteristics lead to the best data quality? Have fieldworkers worked on a DHS survey before? Are the fieldworkers similar to the respondents they are interviewing? Until now, answers to these and other questions have not been quantified.


© Blake Zachary, ICF

In 2014, The DHS Program piloted a fieldworker survey in Cambodia. Data were collected from all 114 fieldworkers. We collected information on their age, sex, marital status, religion, educational level, experience with other surveys, and languages spoken. Taken on their own, the survey results may not be all that interesting. About three–quarters of the fieldworkers had been educated beyond secondary school, almost half had been involved in a previous DHS survey, and about one-third had no children. But when these survey results are compared with DHS response rates and results, they may help to explain certain patterns.

Take, for example, the question of child mortality. Our new DHS fieldworker questionnaire asks if an interviewer has had a child who died. Is this interviewer more likely to collect accurate data on infant and child mortality? Or might she try to avoid the topic?

While all interviewers undergo intense training on the DHS questionnaires, the rapport between interviewer and interviewee is integral to data quality. Will survey respondents be more likely to refuse participation in the survey if the interviewer appears to be better educated or too young? Are unmarried interviewers sufficiently comfortable asking questions about sexual practices, family planning, and child birth? Are experienced interviewers better interviewers or are they too jaded to do a good job?

The pilot study in Cambodia proved that collecting information from interviewers was both feasible and potentially informative. Starting with the 2015 Zimbabwe DHS, the fieldworker questionnaire has been a standard part of the survey, and the dataset is released along with the traditional DHS survey dataset.Zimbabwe dataset

The potential research questions are endless. And now, with the first public release of the fieldworker survey dataset as part of the 2015 Zimbabwe DHS, analysts will be able to explore these data themselves.

11 Jan

Measuring the SDGs: The Role of Household Surveys

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have replaced the Millennium Development Goals with broad and lofty aspirations ranging from health, education, and gender equality to clean energy and responsible consumption.

Sustainable Development GoalsBehind each Sustainable Development Goal is a series of targets and each target can be measured by one or more indicators. Many of the targets in the areas of good health, zero hunger, no poverty, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, and reduced inequalities can be measured directly from DHS surveys. In fact, in many cases, this information has been collected as part of the DHS for decades, and indicator data already exist.

For example, the second SDG, “Zero Hunger,” is supported by 8 targets. One of these is: “By 2030, end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons” (Target 2.2).

Target 2.2 of SDGs

This is where DHS comes in. DHS surveys have measured the height and weight of children under 5 since the 1980s. These measurements are compared to international reference standards to calculate stunting and wasting.Trends in Stunting in South Asia

As DHS data in the STATcompiler show, 4 countries in South Asia have made progress in reducing stunting since the 1990s, but stunting in this region is still unacceptably high. Future surveys will assess whether or not they can achieve a 40% reduction (the international target) by 2025.

Similarly, the SDG for Good Health and Well Being includes a target on reducing childhood mortality: “By 2030, end preventable deaths of newborns and children under 5 years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under-5 mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1,000 live births” (Target 3.2).

Childhood mortality data have been collected as a standard part of DHS surveys since 1985. While neonatal and under-five mortality have declined in many DHS countries, the target of 25 under-five deaths for every 1,000 live births is still a long way off for many. In Tanzania, for example, under-five mortality has dropped steadily since 1999 but is not yet near the international target.

Under-five mortality in East Africa

Other SDG-supporting indicators currently collected in DHS surveys include access to safe water and improved toilet facilities, early marriage, family planning demand satisfied, antenatal care coverage, and birth registration. Others are not part of the DHS standard questionnaire but are often collected in optional modules, such as the maternal mortality ratio, female genital cutting, and violence against women.

In addition, new questions were added to the DHS questionnaire at the beginning of DHS-7 (2013-2018). The data resulting from these questions are starting to appear in DHS final reports and respond to SDG indicators such as clean cooking fuel, tobacco use, internet access, bank accounts, and mobile telephone ownership. A new DHS module on accidents and injuries will respond to the SDG indicator on road traffic accidents. A full list of the DHS-related SDG indicators can be found on the SDGs page of the DHS website.

Demand for Family Planning videoBut as always, collecting data is not enough. The DHS Program is also working to make the DHS-related SDGs easier to find, interpret, and use. This past year we released a video tutorial on the complicated “Demand for Family Planning Satisfied” indicator, and worked with partner Blue RasterDemand for Family Planning video to create an SDGs Story Map.

In the coming year, you will see a standard SDGs table for the final reports, addition of an SDGs tag to facilitate location of SDGs in the STATcompiler, and expansion of the SDGs page on our website.

Stay tuned as we develop these tools. And in the meantime, we’ll be out in the field, collecting the data the world needs to monitor progress towards sustainable development.

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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