Category Archives: Inside The DHS Program

23 May 2018

Inside The DHS Program: Q&A with Dr. Sunita Kishor

Name: Dr. Sunita Kishor

Position title: Director, The DHS Program

What is your role at The DHS Program? To lead, inspire, foster innovation, nurture staff, solve problems, and celebrate successes

When did you start at The DHS Program?  October 1993. Yup—just a few months shy of my 25th anniversary!

Languages spoken: English, Hindi, Urdu, and Punjabi

Favorite DHS cover: Not a cover of a country report, but of the 2004 study “Profiling Domestic Violence: A Multi-country Study” in the DHS Occasional Paper series. Why is this my favorite cover? Because it uses no words, and yet speaks so very loudly about the silence that surrounds the scourge that is domestic violence.

What work are you most proud of?  The inclusion of gender issues into the DHS survey, of course! I sometimes wonder if the SDGs would have been able to include and monitor goals related to women’s empowerment and gender-based violence if The DHS Program had not been consistently collecting these data and making the data widely available for monitoring and analysis.

What’s your most memorable trip to date? Any specific memory?  Not just one trip, but the trips I made as part of field monitoring for the 1998-99 India NFHS-2 fieldwork. These trips into the many hearts of India—way outside the comfort of the urban, elite bubble of New Delhi where I grew up—opened my eyes to the real, multidimensional India. I met women whose life experiences made me proud to be a woman and humbled me too, especially when I looked at my life through their eyes.

One event that showed me what son-preference really looks like in real life was when a grandmother in an NFHS sample household in remote rural Madhya Pradesh asked me to take away her baby granddaughter, barely a month old. In no uncertain terms, she told me that the girl child was unwanted and I could have her. It was only the intervention of her son that prevented the woman from forcing the baby into my hands.

What developments in data collection or global health are you excited about right now? The continued improvements in technology that allow real-time tracking and monitoring of fieldwork and the advances in biomarker measurement are among the many data collection-related developments that excite me.

In the broader arena of global health and development, I am excited about The DHS Program continuing to provide high-quality, timely, and ethically collected data to ensure that the SDGs do indeed lead to greater accountability for meeting the aspirations of all people.

14 Dec 2017

Inside The DHS Program: Q&A with Gulnara Semenov

Name: Gulnara Semenov

Position title: Senior Medical Officer

What is your role at The DHS Program? I served as Regional Coordinator for Anglophone Africa, Asia, Europe and Eurasia and as a survey manager for DHS and Service Provision Assessment (SPA) surveys for the last 15 years. I was responsible for negotiating scope, content, logistics, and budgets for both DHS and SPA surveys, in addition to working with survey stakeholders to develop, manage, and train staff for surveys. I recently started as Senior Medical Officer and will provide technical support for all health-related aspects of DHS Program surveys. I will also work on new health-related modules and represent The DHS Program in various technical working groups.

Languages spoken: Russian and English

Favorite DHS Program survey cover (country, survey type, and year): I love covers that open your eyes to the people we describe in the report. My all-time favorite is the 2005-06 Honduras DHS cover featuring the Maya numeral system; I think it is an incredibly cool cover showing that science and art are closely related.

I also like the 2005 Armenia DHS and 2010 Armenia DHS covers featuring miniatures from the medieval Armenian illuminated manuscripts, a very refined and remarkable art form showing the character of the people they represent.

        

What has been the biggest change in The DHS Program during your time here? The most obvious is using the computer-assisted personal interview (CAPI) system for data collection. We started collecting information using paper questionnaires, and now we are moving towards using electronic devices to collect data, which requires a different kind of technical assistance and skills from the interviewers. The DHS Program has also expanded the questionnaires which are now much larger and cover lots of subjects. We added additional trainings and biomarkers which require various skills and expertise from The DHS Program staff.

What work are you most proud of? Hard to single out, but I think the most rewarding is to be part of The DHS Program family and work side by side with my colleagues who are all remarkable professionals. They demonstrate exceptional examples of work ethic ensuring countries receive the best technical assistance the survey deserves to maintain the reputation of the DHS survey as the gold standard. The DHS program is truly dedicated to capacity building and it is always rewarding to hear from the colleagues that our technical assistance is very comprehensive and transparent in skills transfer.

What’s your favorite trip to date? Every new country is a surprise. I remember Egypt for its remarkable temples, art, history, and their wonderful people. I came to Cairo over the Easter break and was very surprised to learn it was a national holiday and the office was closed!

I was so surprised to find out how lush and green West Africa is when I first visited Ghana. I certainly love to go back to the countries of the former Soviet Union, my home region, to see for myself their achievements in building democracy over the last 20 years.

What developments in data collection or global health are you excited about right now?  Developments in technology are hard to ignore whether it is a personal device that can store tons of information or the availability of genetically tailored treatments to treat a specific form of cancer. I am very hopeful that global health is now more and more people-centered. It is amazing how a small mobile phone became a daily part of life for a person in every corner of the word.

06 Apr 2017

Inside The DHS Program: Q&A with Trevor Croft

Name:  Trevor Croft

Position title: Technical Director/Capacity Strengthening Technical Coordinator (way too much and doesn’t really capture what I do).

Languages spoken: French (not great, but workable), Spanish (pretty weak, but I have worked in Spanish speaking countries), a smattering of Russian (when I worked in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia), and a few words of Bahasa Indonesia, plus enough to order a beer in most other places.

Albania and Health Survey 2008-09 [FR230](English)Favorite DHS cover: 2008-09 Albania DHS – it is based on a photograph I took of a piece of cloth with a very stylized version of the Albanian double-headed eagle that is seen on their national flag.

What has been the biggest change in The DHS Program during your time here? There are many, many changes but two of the biggest have been firstly the change in questionnaire content from a relatively small family planning focused survey in the 1980s to the much bigger and more extensive health content that we see today; and secondly the changes that computing and the internet have brought, going from computers with only floppy drives for data entry of paper questionnaires to the use of tablet computers, data capture in the field, and the rapid transfer of data, but with the ever increasing complexity of the data collection and processing systems.

What work are you most proud of?  Several things come to mind – in the early days the creation of standard tools and conventions for the processing of surveys that are still in effect (and effective) today, the widespread distribution of datasets through the internet, the development of CSPro with colleagues at the US Bureau of the Census, and the development of  STATcompiler back in 1999 and its further development in more recent years.

What’s your favorite trip to date?  There have been several memorable trips including fascinating trips to Zimbabwe, Nepal, and Indonesia. A visit to Zimbabwe for the 1988 DHS particularly comes to mind and combined a successful work trip with my first visit to Victoria Falls – probably my favorite place to visit anywhere in the world.

Is there a country that you would like to visit that you haven’t been to?  I’ve worked in over 65 countries, but there are still many that I would like to visit.  I’ve still yet to work in Tanzania or Uganda.  There are also several Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines. I also want to visit Australia and New Zealand one day – purely for vacation.

Is there anything else you’re looking forward to? There continue to be changes at The DHS Program in how we conduct surveys, how data needs and interests change over time, and I’m interested to see how things will change in the next decade. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have brought a bigger emphasis in the use of high-quality data, and I’m expecting that to be more so with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  I’ve seen great improvements globally over the course of my career, and I’m looking forward to seeing greater improvements in the coming years.

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