Category Archives: Workshops

18 Oct

Reflections from Elizabeth Nansubuga, a 2013 DHS Fellow

I was a DHS Fellow in 2013, part of a three-person team from the “Harvard of Africa,” Makerere University. The DHS Fellows Program came at a time when I had just enrolled for my doctoral studies in South Africa. As part of my doctoral studies, I had to apply advanced statistical techniques in analyzing maternal health-seeking behavior in Uganda using DHS data. Hence, the fellowship could not have come at a better time! It remains a remarkable experience to date, one that continues to impact my professional career.

Elizabeth Nansubuga co-facilitating the 2016 DHS Fellows workshop

Throughout The DHS Fellows Program, we were introduced to how to appropriately use DHS data and several analytical techniques using STATA software. These techniques were very useful in my doctoral studies. With the knowledge I acquired during the fellowship, I became known as a DHS data ‘expert’ among my peers and faculty colleagues and was able to share with them correct methods to analyze DHS data. It should come as no surprise that my Fellows teammate, Simon Kibira, acquired a further interest in the topic we worked on – male circumcision and HIV. He went on to pursue doctoral studies on the same topic.

After completing my doctoral studies at North West University, I returned to Makerere University and became a lecturer, which meant I would be teaching additional postgraduate courses. I have since been able to incorporate DHS data into my teaching materials. This was made easier with resources such as STATcompiler, DHS model datasets, and the mobile app – just a few of the numerous resources that Fellows are introduced to. And notably, since the fellowship, I had more confidence in supervising projects which used DHS data.

Sarah Staveteig, Patricia Ndugga, Elizabeth Nansubuga, and Wenjuan Wang after a presentation at The DHS Program headquarters

Later I had an opportunity with Ms. Patricia Ndugga, another former DHS Fellow and a colleague at Makerere University, to present our research based on DHS data to DHS staff at their Rockville, Maryland headquarters. Patricia presented an excerpt of her doctoral work, “Fertility preferences among postpartum women in Uganda.” Using the 2014-15 Uganda Malaria Indicator Survey, I presented my analysis “Determinants of three-dosage malaria intermittent preventive treatment among pregnant women in Uganda.” Here, we also received good feedback that greatly improved our work!

Afterward, I was invited to co-facilitate workshops during the 2016 Fellows Program. While I was happy to assist and share my knowledge and experiences, it was also an opportunity for me to continue enhancing my knowledge on DHS data and analytical skills, as well as to network with colleagues from other African countries.

Truly, there is nothing like The DHS Fellows Program that enhances one’s analytical and writing skills. It is also a Fellowship that enhances capacity building in universities. I encourage faculty engaged in demographic and health research to take advantage of this fellowship while it is offered.

Thanks to Elizabeth for contributing to The DHS Program blog! If you are interested in becoming a DHS Fellow, we are currently accepting applications for the 2017 program. Learn more here>>

Read some of Elizabeth and Patricia’s published work:

ELIZABETH NANSUBUGA is a faculty member in the Department of Population Studies at Makerere University, Uganda. She holds a Ph.D. in Population Studies. She is passionate about research that impacts policy and society. Her research interests are geared towards the improvement of maternal and child health with a major focus on characterization of maternal near misses. Her other research interests include sexually transmitted diseases, circumcision and gender issues. Her work is published in peer-reviewed journals. She is a recipient of several prestigious fellowships including the University of Michigan African Presidential Scholar, Population Reference Bureau Policy Communication Fellow, DHS Fellow, and African Doctoral Dissertation Fellow, among others. She has done consultancy work for several national and international organizations in the area of population and reproductive health. She is a member of several professional associations such as Public Health Association of South Africa (PHASA), Population Association of America (PAA), and Union for African Population Studies (UAPS).









14 Sep

Reflections from Accra: A Look Back at the Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop

Group of participants and facilitators at the conclusion of the workshop

In August, The DHS Program Geospatial Team was in Accra, Ghana, hosting this year’s Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop to teach participants how to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for public health decision-making and program planning. Participants, most of whom had never before used GIS in any capacity, learned the steps necessary to turn data from a table into a thematic map, working both together and independently to create maps and practice presenting them.

The workshop began with a review of Microsoft Excel techniques for cleaning and preparing indicator data to be used in a GIS software (for this workshop, the QGIS platform), which can often have very particular requirements for such data.  Once the data was cleared of errors and special characters, participants learned how to import this indicator data into a GIS and combine it with geographic data – stored in the form of a shapefile, which is a unique version of file type specifically used to store geographic information – merging the indicator data of a particular region or district to the shape of that area in the map.  Participants were then taught how to colorize the map appropriately, showing the difference between areas, emphasizing regions with higher or lower prevalence with intuitive color schemes, and overall making a visually appealing map.

Participants work in QGIS during a hands-on practice session

After completing four days’ worth of exercises and making maps under the guidance of the facilitators, participants had the opportunity to make their own maps from start to finish on the fifth day. Participants independently prepared these maps using their own program data or data from The DHS Program Spatial Data Repository. Each person had three minutes to present their map to the group and receive feedback on what worked well and identify areas for improvement. This allowed the participants to practice speaking about and presenting a map – an intangible but equally important skill.

Map made by one of the participants, using DHS data from Liberia

Map made by one of the participants, using DHS data from Liberia

While the workshop was focused on teaching participants the skills they needed to use GIS as part of their work, it also stressed the notion that participants would take these skills and knowledge gained in Accra back to their home countries and offices and pass on this information to their coworkers. We hope participants found this workshop to be informative, practical, and not least enjoyable!

Stay tuned for our final blog post, where we will be highlighting one participant in particular! Read the previous blog post in this series here.

For those who did not attend this workshop, The DHS Program offers numerous spatial data and GIS resources that can be used to self-teach. If you are interested in participating in future workshops, follow us on social media or sign up for our email alerts.










27 Jul

Connecting GIS and Public Health: 2016 Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop

Participants from Kenya and Zambia discussing their hand drawn maps.

In August, The DHS Program Geospatial team is hosting this year’s Regional Health Data Mapping Workshop in Accra, Ghana. The workshop will focus on the application of Geographic Information System (GIS) in public health, specifically using maps for better program and policy decisionmaking. This will be a basic workshop that introduces participants to data concepts including management and cleaning of data in Microsoft Excel, introduction to GIS concepts (including GPS data collection), using maps as part of the decisionmaking process, and hands-on introduction to QGIS, an open source GIS software package.

Participant from Zambia working on a 3-D data visualization activity.

We are excited to share mapmaking skills with a new group of participants! From finalizing the venue, selecting participants, and preparing the curriculum, we are working hard to organize everything for the workshop. Selecting the workshop participants was the most difficult part of the process so far but in the end, 20 participants were accepted out of the 600 that applied!

In 2015, we hosted a similar workshop in East Africa and also had over 600 applicants for 20 spots. We believe this continued show of interest indicates how important a skill mapmaking is, and the great need for this skill in the health sector across the world. The workshop curriculum facilitates learning these skills via guided activities, group work, and hands-on software activities where participants get to show off their hard work!

This year’s workshop specifically targets West African countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo) and two others, Chad and Egypt, where The DHS Program has recently done or will soon be doing a household survey.

Applicants didn’t need to be experts in GIS to be selected – in fact, we preferred that they weren’t! We wanted applicants with little to no GIS experience, though certainly sought those with an interest in learning and strong data skills. In our selection, we focused on individuals with current positions within government ministries, development partners, and local universities. We hope that participants use their newfound health mapping skills to improve the use of DHS data and other data for decisionmaking in their home countries, and also to teach others in their home offices.

Participants from Tanzania practicing GPS data collection skills.

Even individuals who do not attend the workshop can still benefit from the learning of those who do and also from self-taught learning through our many mapmaking and data analysis-related resources at The DHS Program. These include the Spatial Data Repository, STATcompiler, Spatial Analysis Reports, and video tutorials.

I will be co-facilitating the workshop, so stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on how it all went!

30 Mar

Model Datasets to the Rescue

Have you ever wanted to start immediately working on a DHS dataset, but didn’t have a research topic? Or didn’t want to take the time to register for access? Well, The DHS Program now has the cure for all your data analysis woes!

The DHS Program has created model datasets so users can become familiar with datasets without having to register for access. These datasets have been created strictly for practice and do not represent any country’s actual data. Model datasets are based on the DHS 6 Questionnaire and Recode. They include data on all standard survey characteristics, as well as data on domestic violence, female genital cutting, adult and maternal mortality, and child labor.

You might be thinking, how can I use these datasets? Model datasets can be used for many different purposes, including:

  • Replicating standard final report tables
  • Practicing calculating complex indicators
  • Teaching statistical concepts and procedures

Team members from Nigeria participating in the 2016 Regional DHS/MIS Malaria Analysis Workshop

Recently, the model datasets were used in the 2016 Regional DHS/MIS Malaria Analysis Workshops in Uganda and Senegal. Since participants attending the workshop came from different countries with different DHS/MIS datasets, the curriculum and workshop exercises were standardized using the model datasets. After going through the model dataset examples, participants then worked with their country’s specific data to match numbers in the final report. This was a great way for facilitators to make sure everyone was mastering the skill before participants worked on their own country’s data.

Model datasets have already had a starring role in our sampling and weighting tutorial videos. Future videos will also feature the model datasets, allowing users to follow along with the examples in the tutorial with their own statistical program.

Visit the Model Datasets page on The DHS Program website for more information. Users can pick and choose which data files to download, as well as download the full set of final report tables and sampling errors to check their work. Again, unlike datasets for specific surveys, users do not need to register in order to gain access.

If you have recently used the model datasets we want to hear from you! Comment below or email to share your experiences with the model datasets or how you plan on using them in the future. You can also post questions about the model datasets on the User Forum.

16 Dec

Engaging with DHS Data in Senegal

Days like today are why I love my job. “Thematic data use workshops are the most important part of the survey,” Fatou CAMARA, director of the Senegal Continuous Survey at l’Agence Nationale de la Statistique et la Démographie (ANSD), tells me over dinner. “They’re also my favorite,” she adds. I couldn’t agree more. It’s always rewarding to watch people engage directly with data from The DHS Program surveys, but even more so when it’s the women and men who manage a country’s health programs.

Representatives from ANSD, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and USAID officially open the thematic workshop.

Representatives from ANSD, the Ministry of Health and Social Action, and USAID officially open the thematic workshop.

The topics for the thematic workshop are maternal health, child health, and nutrition. Regional medical coordinators, reproductive health coordinators, and nutrition supervisors have come from all 14 of Senegal’s regions to participate. They are joined by the national maternal health, child survival, and nutrition program directors.

Senegal DHS and SPA Report CoversThe morning is packed with introductions and presentations on the relevant results from the Senegal Continuous Survey. Data is collected each year in Senegal and the results are designed to guide program planning, monitoring, and evaluation. The Senegal Continuous Survey has two parts: 1) the Continuous DHS, which collects data on households, women, men, and children; and 2) the Continuous SPA, which collects data on health facilities, health care providers, and clients receiving health care.

Participants review the dissemination materials for the Continuous Survey.

Participants review the dissemination materials for the Continuous Survey.

Questions and comments during the discussion following the presentations are intriguing. “We trained our health care providers on the integrated management of childhood illness, but the [survey] results show that they aren’t putting this into practice during sick child consultations.” “Almost a quarter of births still occur at home instead of health facilities, though the availability of delivery services is high. We need to increase our communication efforts with women.” Continuous SPA coordinator, Dr Ibou GUISSE, and the director of field operations for the Continuous DHS, Mabeye DIOP, do an excellent job of providing detailed answers and explanations.

The afternoon begins with an activity on how to read and understand tables from the Continuous Survey. Participants are guided step-by-step, from reading the title and subtitle to finding the totals in the table. Over lunch, a participant tells me that the activity is useful, “Previously, I sometimes struggled to make sense of the tables. Now I’m more confident.”

Participants identify priority actions from their regional strategic plans during group work.

Participants identify priority actions from their regional strategic plans during group work.

The rest of the day is dedicated to group work. Each region must identify two priority actions from their regional strategic health plans that will be completed in the six months after the workshop. They must also indicate specific results from the Continuous Survey that support the actions they have chosen. Finally, they must create an action plan for these priority actions, including next steps and deadlines. The groups are so engrossed in the group work that they continue well past 6 PM. Tomorrow, they will present their priority actions, supporting data, and action plans. I can hardly wait see to see the data in action!

05 Aug

Reflections on the Journalist Workshop in Togo

Tuesday began with a torrential downpour; the roads in Lomé were nearly impassable. I was certain that I was going to be late for the journalist workshop. The taxi dropped me off at the wrong entrance, and I had to wait nearly 20 minutes to cross the open-air plaza to reach the correct conference room without being drenched.  This was not how my return to Togo was supposed to happen.


© 2004 Anna Maria Omura, Courtesy of Photoshare

Since joining The DHS Program in 2010, I’ve eagerly awaited the next Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in Togo (the last Togo DHS was 1998). I served as a United States Peace Corps volunteer in Togo from 2003-2005, working on community health and HIV prevention. My Peace Corps experience led me to pursue a career in public health, and now I had the opportunity to go back and work in Togo again.

Togo DHS 2013 Cover Final.indd

Togo 2013-2014 DHS

DHS data is meant to guide evidence-based decisionmaking to improve the health and living conditions in countries worldwide. As such, several dissemination activities were planned to ensure the results of 2013-14 Togo Demographic and Health Survey were available to program planners and policymakers.

Journalists are a key audience because their reporting can reach both high-level decision makers, as well as individuals who can organize grass roots efforts at the community level. The staff at the Institute Nationale de la Statistique et les Études Économiques de la Démographie (INSEED), the organization that implemented the 2013-14 Togo DHS, were eager to help journalists better understand how to correctly use and report on data. They also recruited Pao GADIEL, a health and development journalist from Santé Education, to co-facilitate the workshop.


Pao GADIEL prepares for his presentation.

Despite the bad weather, there was an excellent turnout with approximately 40 print, radio, and television journalists in attendance. Kossi TETE from INSEED led an activity on how to correctly read and understand tables from the DHS. INSEED led the panel discussion on the survey results, which gave journalists the opportunity to ask individual questions about the data. Pao GADIEL presented on best practices for using data in reporting, and led an activity where journalists brainstormed ideas for future stories that would use data from the 2013-14 DHS.

Journalists were particularly interested in the data on HIV prevalence, malaria prevalence and women’s status. Maybe the morning’s deluge was a good omen, because the workshop was rousing success.

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