High Demand for New India NFHS-4 Data

Written by: Fred Arnold

23 Feb, 2016


Fact sheets with survey results for the first 15 of the States and Union Territories from the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4) were recently released to much fanfare and a veritable feeding frenzy among the media. The keen interest in the survey results materialized even without a formal dissemination event. The thirst for the results may have been stimulated by how:

  • it has been 10 years since the previous NFHS survey,
  • the results were made available even before the second-phase fieldwork started,
  • the NFHS surveys are considered to be highly reliable, and
  • the fact sheets contain a wide variety of key population, health, and nutrition indicators (114 in all), broken down by urban and rural areas and shown in comparison with the 2005-06 NFHS-3 results when possible.
© Fred Arnold/ICF International

© Fred Arnold/ICF International

The excitement accompanying the release of the NFHS-4 results was a far cry from what I remember happened at the time of the release of the 1992-93 NFHS-1 survey national report. Of course, the key stakeholders who were knowledgeable about NFHS-1 showed up at the dissemination event in large numbers, but it was difficult to generate a great deal of interest among the media, since they were less familiar with the survey or the importance of its results.

The proliferation of news articles and conversations on social media surrounding the results of the NFHS-4 fact sheets are examples of the interest in getting survey results out quickly.  Tweets from a variety of users, tagged with #NFHS4, shared links to the fact sheets, complete tables from each fact sheet, and trends in the data.

The first fact sheets for NFHS-4 are now available from the NFHS-4 coordinating agency, the International Institute for Population Sciences and from The DHS Program, and there is a link to the fact sheets from the website of the Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Overall, 250 district-level fact sheets have also been released for the same states, each containing 93 indicators.

Working on a survey with a sample size of more than 572,000 households, with more than 6,000 field staff, 16 survey field agencies, millions of biomarkers tests, and questionnaires in 18 languages is certainly challenging, but finally being able to see the survey results in the hands of key stakeholders who are in a position to help improve the lives of India’s population makes it all worthwhile. Stay tuned for more results as the second phase of fieldwork has just begun.

For more information, read the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare’s press release.


  • Dr. Fred Arnold was formerly responsible for setting the overall technical direction for The DHS Program and coordinating the design of DHS questionnaires. He coordinated technical assistance to four large-scale National Family Health Surveys in India, which have included interviews with more than one million women and men, working with more than 40 organizations (government ministries, funding agencies, international organizations, and implementing agencies) in the conduct of the surveys. He was involved in the design and implementation of surveys in 15 additional countries. Dr. Arnold has a Ph.D. in economics/demography from the University of Michigan. He has authored more than 150 publications in areas such as malaria; HIV; maternal, newborn and child health; nutrition; son preference; international migration; and the value of children.

24 thoughts on “High Demand for New India NFHS-4 Data

  1. NFHS-4 data/results can be viewed as baseline data for newly formed states like Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

  2. Amazing work. I can only imagine what it takes to coordinate all this work; indicators at 250 districts???? kudos to you. I would like to request International Institute for Population Sciences to share with me their data processing manual

    • Many more state and district fact sheets will be coming out by the end of this year. There is no publicly available data processing manual for this survey.

  3. sir can i get NFHS 4 data for my research work. i am working of NFHS 3 data but if i get new one it will be more beneficial for me

  4. It’s fantastic to have the district fact sheets out. We’ve just put out a trends report on nutrition using the state sheets, and other material (maps, etc.) using the district level fact sheets.
    Trends report – http://poshan.ifpri.info/2017/07/10/trends-in-nutrition-outcomes-determinants-and-interventions-in-india-2006-2016/

    Other fact sheets, maps, etc. – htt://poshan.ifpri.info

    Is there a place to sign up to get information on when the datasets will be released?

    Thanks! Purnima.

  5. The percentage of India’s female population that is urban and rural is included in the NFHS-4 national report, which should be released at a national dissemination seminar in the next few weeks.

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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.