New IPUMS DHS Climate Change and Health Research Hub a Resource for Robust Climate Change Analysis

Written by: The DHS Program

22 Apr, 2024

April 22nd is Earth Day, an opportunity to reflect on how we affect the environment and how climate change affects us. Climate change has a broad spectrum of impacts on human well-being.1 Rapid onset events, such as floods, landslides, wildfires, and heat waves, can erode agricultural productivity, destroy shelter and infrastructure, and increase infectious diseases. Slow onset events, such as gradual warming and drying, shortening of the growing season, rising sea levels, and increasing rainfall or droughts, reduce people’s ability to make a living for themselves and their families. Climate change affects people’s access to resources, such as food, health care, electricity, and clean water, and can influence their decision-making. 

To understand how best humans can adapt to changes in climate, experts from different fields collaborate on interdisciplinary climate change research. Together, researchers identify how the effects of climate change interact and amplify harm. Their research can offer strategies to moderate climate change’s effects on human health. The population and environmental data landscape is rapidly changing, thanks to a growing variety of data sources and an increasing array of georeferenced data. This can make it challenging for scientists to “keep-up” with complex data structures and identify, access, and use the most appropriate data for their research questions.2 It is important to engage both natural and social sciences when exploring the impacts of climate change on human health. Few such integrated training programs have been offered, leaving many researchers ill-equipped to carry out sound climate change research.

Introducing the IPUMS DHS Climate Change and Health Research Hub, a new online resource for anyone interested in using spatially referenced health survey data together with climate and weather data. Using The DHS Program’s survey datasets as their source, IPUMS DHS creates variables that are consistently coded across samples, fully documented, and freely available for download into customized data files.

Blog posts on the Climate Change and Health Research Hub provide general information and detailed directions on using IPUMS DHS data and environmental data together in robust analyses of the effects of climate change on human health. 

New data users can get started with these posts:

Other blog posts dig deep into the hows and the whys of researching climate change and health:

Figure 1. CHIRPS precipitation data for July 19, 2001 with 2010 Burkina Faso DHS cluster locations.
Figure 2. Proportion of days above 35° by month and by integrated administrative boundaries from the 2012 Mali DHS.

Funding for the IPUMS DHS Climate Change Research Hub comes from a supplemental grant from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). That grant also funds ongoing work to add more contextual variables to IPUMS DHS and to integrate data from 37 DHS Program Malaria Indicator Surveys (MIS).

Revisit our Earth Day blog post from last year: an interview with IPUMS’ own Dr. Kathryn Grace on using DHS Program data in her research and teaching on geography, environment, and society.

Special thanks to our guest blog contributors from IPUMS DHS:

Dr. Kathryn Grace, Professor of Geography, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Dr. Miriam King, Senior Research Scientist, Institute for Social Research and Data Innovation, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Finn Roberts, Senior Data Analyst, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

IPUMS DHS is a system that makes it easy to find and review thousands of DHS survey variables and to download a single fully harmonized data file with only the variables and samples that interest you. IPUMS DHS currently includes variables from DHS survey samples from 36 African and 9 Asian countries; more samples are constantly being added.

  1. See Watts et al. 2021; Green et al. 2019; Shukla et al. 2021; Brown et al. 2021; and McGranahan et al. 2007. ↩︎
  2. See Kugler et al. 2019. ↩︎

Feature image: © Jules Bosco, Salohi, USAID on Pixnio


  • The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program has collected, analyzed, and disseminated accurate and representative data on population, health, HIV, and nutrition through more than 400 surveys in over 90 countries. The DHS Program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Contributions from other donors, as well as funds from participating countries, also support surveys. The project is implemented by ICF.

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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.