28 Feb 2019

Strengthening Nutrition Data Quality at The DHS Program

A health technician tests a child for anemia during a survey training. © 2018 ICF/Sorrel Namaste

“Everything bad can go wrong at collecting the sample, and you can’t get any good results from a bad sample. ” – Informant from the Enhancing Nutrition Data Quality Report

Data for decision-making is vital as countries work to reduce the burden of malnutrition and to measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Nutrition Targets 2025.

The DHS Program, a leading source of nutrition data globally, has invigorated its focus on the quality and depth of the types of nutrition data collected. To this end, a qualitative study was undertaken to identify how to enhance the quality of nutrition data. Interviews were conducted with 50 experts internal and external to The DHS Program, and DHS staff participated in focus group discussions. Informants highlighted critical challenges that exist in collecting anemia, anthropometry, and infant and young child feeding data in large surveys while also offering solutions to strengthen data quality.

The outcomes from the study are summarized in the report “Enhancing Nutrition Data Quality in The DHS Program” which calls for the implementation of 32 recommendations. The DHS Program is already addressing most of these recommendations (21 out of the 32) and plans to take up additional recommendations throughout DHS-8. These include revising hemoglobin cutoffs in STATcompiler, working with the WHO to develop a technical error of measurement value for passing an anthropometry standardization exercise, and testing new procedures and indicators for real-time monitoring of fieldwork. Future blog posts will explore the application of these recommendations across the stages of a DHS survey.

Recommendations to enhance nutrition data quality were identified across The DHS Program survey stages. © 2018 ICF

The DHS Program is committed to continuous quality improvement and is uniquely positioned to implement new data quality measures. Yet, the report is not only intended to inform operations at The DHS Program. The lessons learned are applicable to wider audiences involved in the collection and use of nutrition data throughout the world. Strengthening the quality of nutrition data will lead to improved data-driven nutrition actions.


Written by Sorrel Namaste and Rukundo K. Benedict

Dr. Sorrel Namaste is the Senior Nutrition Technical Advisor for The DHS Program. She is an epidemiologist with expertise in nutrition assessment and implementation research. 

Dr. Rukundo K. Benedict is the Nutrition Technical Specialist for The DHS Program. She is a public health nutrition practitioner with expertise in infant and young child feeding (IYCF), water-sanitation hygiene (WASH), community health systems, and the delivery of integrated interventions in low-resource settings. 

20 Feb 2019

Inside The DHS Program: Q&A with Tom Pullum

Name: Tom Pullum

Position title: Director of Research

What is your role at The DHS Program? I manage the analysis team, which prepares the majority of analysis reports that are released after the Final Reports and standard recode files have been produced. I am the lead author or co-author of at least a couple of these reports each year. The analysis team also conducts the DHS Fellows Program and Data Analysis Workshops. I also assist with data quality issues that occasionally arise during the preparation of Final Reports and frequently answer questions related to statistics, demography, or Stata that are submitted to the DHS User Forum.

When did you start at The DHS Program? I joined The DHS Program in May 2011. Previously, I had been a demographer in the academic world at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Washington. In 2010-11, I took a non-academic break to work with USAID as part of the Global Health Fellows Program, expecting to return to the University of Texas. However, the opportunity to join The DHS Program came up and I retired from the University of Texas to join The DHS Program.

What has been the biggest change in The DHS Program during your time here? The biggest change has been in the sheer volume of work, indicated by the increased number of surveys, Final Reports, and analysis reports that are conducted annually. The analysis team has become very efficient in producing analysis reports that include a large number of surveys.

What work are you most proud of? Personally, I am most proud of the methodological reports that I have been directly involved in, but in a broader way, I’m very pleased with the growth and development of the analysis team. The capacity to conduct high-quality research and workshops has steadily increased. My colleagues work well together, take initiative, and are very productive.

Do you have any newly authored publications or articles you would like to share? I would like to point people to some methodological reports that came out late in 2017 and 2018.

         

                          

How are the topics for analysis reports selected? Every year, we work with USAID/Washington to develop a list of topics for reports that will be completed by the end of the year. Reports in the Further Analysis series originate within the USAID Missions in countries that have recently done a survey. Those reports generally examine trends across at least the two most recent surveys. The Methodological Reports are intended to lead to improvements in future data collection or to increase our ability to extract useful information from the data that have already been collected.

Who is the audience for analysis reports? In addition to meeting the programmatic needs of USAID, there is a large community of DHS data users who would benefit from these reports. It is always a pleasure to hear from that larger community and to help them get the most out of the data. We hope that as many people as possible will visit our website become familiar with the reports that are available there.

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
530 Gaither Road, Suite 500, Rockville, MD 20850
Tel: +1 (301) 407-6500 • Fax: +1 (301) 407-6501
dhsprogram.com

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.