24 Aug 2017

How Things Have Changed! Looking Back at Data Distribution Practices from 20 Years Ago

A lot can change in 20 years. For The DHS Program, it’s the difference between over 250 datasets for 70 separate surveys to more than 10,000 datasets from over 300 surveys. The contents of the model survey questionnaires changed radically, as did the media used for data distribution. And two decades ago, the internet had only recently emerged as a potential means of communication around the world!

It might be hard to imagine life without internet access today – for us, we rely on the internet for many of our activities. In 1995, The DHS Program established a website which had the basics: an informational brochure, survey statuses, fact sheets, press releases, and newsletters.

Though the website has been updated several times since then, it still has these basic features. The crucial difference lies in how we only provided an archive of publications and data and information on how to place an order for them. Yes, users had to pay for the cost of media – which, at the time, included diskettes (AKA a floppy disk), Bernoulli cartridges, and CD-ROMS – and shipping. At one point, we were deciding on whether to charge for the data itself, to ensure the fullest use of the data.

That decision was part of a proposal from 20 years ago, which proposed the following data dissemination over the internet:

  1. DHS data
  2. India NFHS data
  3. Report text
  4. Online newsletter (tentatively named ‘DHS Discoveries’)
  5. User forum

These look familiar, don’t they? Today, both reports and datasets are free and available over the internet for download (though we still require users to apply for access to datasets), we email our newsletter to subscribers (which includes news, new publications and datasets, and articles that have cited DHS data), and the User Forum has been live since February 2013.

The DHS Program has utilized the internet beyond what was proposed 20 years ago; to name only a few ways, the creations of STATcompiler, development of eLearning courses for data visualization and social media for global health, and utilization of social media to engage with our users. And if you want to know what is coming next, be sure to Follow or Like us on social media, subscribe to our newsletter or even this very blog you are just a few clicks away!

This blog post is based on the rediscovery of the paper prepared for the Population Association of America (PAA) meeting back in 1996. Go back in time and read the original paper here!

09 Aug 2017

The First-ever DHS in Myanmar: The Value of a Nationally Representative Survey

2015-16 Myanmar DHS Final ReportMany DHS countries have completed 3, 4, or 5 surveys, and look forward to their next DHS to examine trends and assess progress. But the 2015-16 Myanmar Demographic and Health Survey (MDHS) was the first DHS conducted, providing, for the first time ever, internationally comparable and nationally representative DHS data. For Myanmar, this is an especially meaningful achievement, as some areas of Myanmar have previously been too insecure for inclusion in national surveys.

The Myanmar DHS team, including the Ministry of Health and Sports, USAID/Burma, the 3MDG Fund, and ICF staff decided at the beginning of the survey process to prioritize inclusion of all people in Myanmar. This meant that many extra efforts were taken to collect data in even the hardest-to-reach areas, including clusters that had previously been unreachable by survey programs due to insecurity and violence. Deliberate efforts were made to hire interviewers from all regions and states and to ensure that interviewers could speak minority languages. In one case, data collection teams traveled to a selected cluster in ambulances to ensure fieldworker safety. Extensive advocacy efforts took place before the survey teams arrived at sensitive locations to make certain that communities were informed about the survey and felt comfortable participating. Ultimately, 98% of selected households participated in the MDHS. You can read more about sampling here.

With the 2015-16 MDHS, Myanmar joins the DHS club with nationally representative, transparent, and freely available data for decision makers in Myanmar and worldwide. During the national seminar releasing the MDHS data, the Minister of Health urged 150 eager audience members,

“I do not want this survey to be on a shelf… it must be on the desk of program managers and state and regional health directors”.

The Ministry of Health and Sports has been working towards this goal, holding dissemination workshops in all 15 states and regions in May.

As someone who has been with The DHS Program for 13 years and helped to support dozens of surveys, the release of a new survey final report never gets old. But in Myanmar, the survey signifies more than new data. It represents a new era in Myanmar where information is shared, all people are included, and representative data are used to inform decision making.

All of us at The DHS Program offer our congratulations to the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports. Your hard work and dedication over the last two years have paid off. We look forward to working with you again. And next time we can talk about trends.

Representatives of the Myanmar Ministry of Health and Sports, USAID, the 3MDG Fund, and other key stakeholders share the results of the 2015-16 Myanmar DHS on March 23, 2017, in Nay Pyi Taw.

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.

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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.