24 Jun 2015

DHS Data Now Available in Integrated, Customized Package from the Minnesota Population Center

Have you ever wished that you could download just one dataset for multiple surveys with all of the data you want for your analysis in one file? And that the dataset wasn’t so huge and overwhelming? And that the variables in the dataset were all harmonized?

The Minnesota Population Center has been working on the Integrated Demographic and Health Series (IDHS), a free online database that currently includes over 2,000 integrated variables from 76 DHS surveys in 18 countries. (If you know IPUMS data, these are the DHS equivalent.) These variables are harmonized for consistency across time and across countries. The IDHS are also painstakingly documented, letting you, the researcher, know how different items have been defined and coded, with each variable’s codes and frequencies, question wording, universe, meaning, and comparability issues accessible with just a click. The variable selection tool lets you see, at a glance, which surveys have included that specific variable, allowing you to select the variables and surveys you need for your analysis. The customized datasets come packaged with the survey year and country, weights, identifiers, and other sampling variables needed for analysis, and in the format you chose (SAS, Stata, SPSS, ASCII, or CSV file).

IDHS - Use of Family Planning Variables

IDHS – Use of Family Planning Variables

IDHS data are currently available for 18 countries and 76 surveys, allowing for comparative analysis for many countries in sub-Saharan Africa as well as India and Egypt. All of the countries included have had at least 3 DHS surveys dating back to the 1980s, so these harmonized datasets are perfect for trend analysis. Researchers can select either women or children as their unit of analysis. The variables cover questions about the woman herself, such as her education, media exposure, marital history, contraceptive knowledge and use, family size desires, experience of domestic violence, and knowledge about illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and fistula. Other questions relate to the health of the woman’s children under 5, such as antenatal and delivery care, nutrition, vaccinations, and recent diarrheal and respiratory illnesses and treatment.

What’s the difference between IDHS data and DHS datasets? Who should use IDHS data? 

DHS datasets continue to be available for download from The DHS Program website by country. The datasets include all of the data collected in a survey. If you are looking to analyze a single data set, the DHS datasets are likely your best bet. But for a multi survey analysis (among the 18 countries currently included in the IDHS and limited to the women and children), try the harmonized packages from IDHS.

What’s next?

IDHS has funding to continue this project through 2016 and will seek continued funding for another five years of work. They will continue launching data from more countries, new DHS surveys as they become available, and  hope to expand to cover men and households.

17 Jun 2015

Spotlight on New Staff: Hamdy Moussa

Hamdy Moussa

Hamdy Moussa

Name: Hamdy Moussa

Position title: Survey Manager, Service Provision Assessment (SPA) Surveys

Languages spoken: Arabic and English

When not working, favorite place to visit: New York and Cairo

Favorite type of cuisine: Mediterranean and Italian

Last good book you read: Health Systems Performance Assessment: Debates, Methods and Empiricism, WHO

Where would we find you on a Saturday? With my family for outdoor activities and exploring the Washington metropolitan area.

First time you worked with DHS survey data: 2004 Egypt Service Provision Assessment Survey

What is on your desk (or bulletin board/wall) right now? 2014 Bangladesh Health Facility Survey (BHFS) as well as plans for the 2015 Egypt Service Provision Assessment Survey (ESPA) and 2015 Jordan Service Provision Assessment Survey (JSPA)

2012 Jordan DHS Final Report

2012 Jordan PFHS Final Report

What is your favorite survey final report cover? The 2012 Jordan Population and Family Health Survey with the wonderful photo of the monastery in the ancient city of Petra, Jordan.

Favorite chapter or indicator, and why?  Knowledge and prevalence of hepatitis C, as hepatitis C represents a major challenge to the health system in Egypt.

What’s your favorite way to access The DHS Program’s data? The website.

What population or health issue are you most passionate about?  Why?  Viral hepatitis is a critical public health issue in Egypt. The 2008 EDHS provided Egypt with the first nationally representative data on the scope of hepatitis C epidemic in Egypt. The survey found that 15% of women and men age 15-59 years had antibodies to the hepatitis C virus (HCV) in their blood, and 10% had an active HCV infection that represents a major challenge to the health system in Egypt.

What are you most looking forward to about your new position? First to be fully integrated in both SPA and DHS surveys, and second to manage more SPA surveys in different countries.

What do you look forward to bringing to The DHS Program (job-related or not!)? I am bringing my technical, consulting skills in health systems and biomarkers, and looking forward to learning more from the distinguished DHS Program staff.

11 Jun 2015

From Population Pyramids to Ternary Plots: Visualizing Data for Demography

At this year’s Population Association of America (PAA) conference, The DHS Program staff (along with co-authors from JSI and Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs) presented the first paper in the data visualization session.  It was called “Why Demographers Need to be Data Visualization Experts.”  It appears we were preaching to the choir.  While this was the first year that PAA included data visualization as a topic, the session was attended by almost 200 people, and fellow presenters proved that innovation in data visualization is alive and well.

Circular plot of migration flows between and within world regions during 2005 to 2010

Dr. Nikola Sander’s Global Migration circular plot visualization

Dr. Nikola Sander, of the Vienna Institute of Demography, cited the Royal Society with the message: “Scientists must learn to communicate with the public, be willing to do so and indeed consider it their duty to do so.” (Royal Society, 1985). She is one of the creators of the Global Migration circular plot visualization that went viral in 2014.





Small multiples

Dr. Michael Bader’s small multiples

Dr. Michael Bader of American University introduced his visualizations of the distribution of racial diversity in three-dimensional tertiary plots. These 3-D animations allow the viewer to see the distribution of White, Black, Latino, and Asian neighborhoods in different cities. Small multiples (that is, multiple versions of the same graphic showing different pieces of the data) allow for the quick interpretation of change over time (see full paper here).





Lexus Surface color schemes

Jonas Schoeley’s Lexis surface qualitative color schemes

Jonas Schoeley, of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, proposed solutions for presenting composite data on the Lexis surface, including a qualitative sequential color scheme to show the most prominent causes of death over time and by age group in France (see full paper here). This image contains an amazing amount of data, but fascinating data stories quickly emerge, such as the spike in 1944 of “external” deaths.  This, of course, was D-Day.




Still, it remains that many academic journals, institutions, and data collection projects do not prioritize data visualization, communication, and dissemination, as part of their standard process.  Why should they?

  1.  We are competing with massive amounts of data and information. A good data visualization summarizes the major findings of any scientific study in a concise and compelling way. Assume you have only a few minutes of your audience’s attention.
  2. A good data visualization is shareable and accessible to a large range of audiences.  Visualizations are shareable if they summarize a compelling data story and are beautiful to look at.
  3. If the researcher or technical expert is not involved in the data visualization process, the accuracy and integrity of the data story may be threatened. Learning the basic principles of data visualization allows the demographer to interact with a larger team, including communication professionals, graphic designers, and programmers.

Ultimately, we are looking for our work to have impact. And measures of impact are quickly changing. We need to think outside the box of submitting papers to academic journals, but expand our toolkit to include user-friendly summaries of findings, interactive web tools, and social media. Data visualization is one of the most efficient ways to tell a complex and compelling data story. As Dr. Nikola Sander summarized, data visualization is not a luxury.  It is a requirement.

For more resources on data visualization in global health and demography, visit datavizhub.co.  Details on the PAA session and links to abstracts and papers are available here.

03 Jun 2015

The Launch of the 2014 Egypt DHS

2014 Egypt DHS National Seminar

2014 Egypt DHS National Seminar

Very few countries have as much experience with The DHS Program as Egypt. Since 1988, Egypt has implemented seven standard DHS surveys, three Interim Surveys, one In-Depth Study, and two Service Provision Assessment Surveys (SPA).  Data collection is almost completed for a Health Indicator Survey (HIS), and plans are underway to start another SPA.

So any time a DHS is released in Egypt it is a big event. On May 10, 2015, the Minister of Health, Dr. Adel Adawy, and USAID/Egypt Mission Director Sherry Carlin along with about 300 guests gathered at the Grand Nile Towers Hotel to hear the latest findings about the health status of the Egyptian people from the 2014 Egypt DHS.

2014 Egypt DHS

2014 Egypt DHS

The news is very mixed. On the positive side, child mortality has declined and maternal health indicators have improved.  Now, 9 in 10 women receive at least 4 antenatal care visits, and 92% give birth with the assistance of a skilled provider—a far better maternal care profile than the rest of Africa. On the negative side, the 2014 EDHS reports that an astonishing  percentage of births are by Cesarean section. Nationwide, C-sections account for just over half (52%) of all deliveries in the five years before the survey—one of the highest rates in the world. Three governorates, Port Said, Damietta, and Kafr El Sheikh, report 70% or more C-section deliveries among all births. Participants at the national meeting called for more research and government action to reduce the high rate of surgical deliveries.

Another negative finding is the increase in fertility reported in the 2014 EDHS. Now, the total fertility rate, or average number of births per woman is 3.5, up from 3.0 in 2008. For a crowded country like Egypt, this is worrisome news, indeed. Family planning use has remained the same overall, but women are switching from long-acting IUDs to the pill.

Egypt has a long history of acting on the results of the DHS. The 1988 survey led to a new community health program to increase awareness of the importance of antenatal care. When the 1995 EDHS showed that 97% of ever-married women had undergone female genital circumcision (FGC), widespread calls for action led to a ban on FGC in 1996 and a national law criminalizing the practice in 2008. FGC still persists in Egypt, but the percentage of women reporting that their daughters under age 18 were or would be circumcised dropped from 70% in 2005 to 45% in 2008, and rose again to 56% in 2014. In some governorates less than one in four daughters are expected to be circumcised.

Getting this important information out to the public health community is a priority for USAID and the Ministry of Health. The DHS Program is collaborating with these organizations plus the local implementing agency El Zanaty and Associates and a local non-profit communication organization, Ask Consult for Health, to disseminate the survey results through fact sheets, policy briefs, and fact-to-face meetings.

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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Tel: +1 (301) 407-6500 • Fax: +1 (301) 407-6501

Anthropometry measurement (height and weight) is a core component of DHS surveys that is used to generate indicators on nutritional status. The Biomarker Questionnaire now includes questions on clothing and hairstyle interference on measurements for both women and children for improved interpretation.