Top 5 Ways to Access DHS Data

Written by: Erica Nybro

24 Mar, 2014

DHSdata inform policies, programs, and research all over the world.  How do you access DHS data?  For me, it depends on my purpose.  For a quick reference to an indicator in a meeting, the mobile app is my go-to source.  When I’m writing a report I’m a purist: I need a hard copy of final reports with tables I can highlight.  When I need to visualize data I go to   What kind ofDHS data user are you? 

 5.  The modernist

number5Join the 1,500+ users who have already downloaded the freeDHS app from the Apple, Google Play, or Windows Phone app store for smart phones and tablets.  View the top 20 indicators across allDHS countries and over time; check out the timing of the next survey in your country; investigate how key indicators differ by education, wealth, or subnational region.

4. The data visualizer

number4Visit and create custom tables, graphs, maps, and scatterplots. Compare data across countries, or over time. STATcompiler includes more than 1,800 indicators, as well as background characteristics for all the coreDHS topics, such as fertility and family planning, maternal and child health, nutrition, mortality, malaria, HIV, and much more.  Save your charts and tables for use in reports and PowerPoints, or share with friends.

3.  The academic

number3Download a dataset (or many of them) to do your own analyses. More than 200,000 datasets were downloaded between 2008 and 2013, andDHS data have been used in 1,300 peer-reviewed journal articles in 365 journals since 2003. The DHS Program now provides additional help for dataset users:  the online User Forum and a series of Tutorial videos on The DHS Program YouTube channel.

2. The hands-on user

number2Sometimes you just need the hard copy, so grab a DHS final report and get your hands dirty.  PDFs are available for free at, or search out a hard copy at your university library, your office, or the survey’s implementing agency in each country.  No luck?  Email us at and we’ll try to send you one.

1. The time traveler

In 2014, users will be able to create a customized package of variables for download and analysis. ICF is working with the Minnesota Population Center to create an online tool that allows users to download a customized set of standardized variables for the countries of their choice in one datafile.    This is a great solution for researchers with a narrow research question, or for faculty and students looking for a smaller dataset to use in the classroom.

What’s your favorite?  What options would you like to see in the future?


  • Erica Nybro was formerly the Senior Advisor for Communication for The DHS Program. Ms. Nybro, a health communication specialist with 15 years of professional experience in designing communication strategies and products for a diverse range of audiences, was responsible for the overall management of global and country-level dissemination of DHS data with the ultimate goal of increasing data use for decision making. Ms. Nybro led the DHS team in digital communication activities, including the development of the new STATcompiler and mobile app, social media outreach, and online learning. Ms. Nybro worked to strengthen capacity in communication and dissemination of DHS data in multiple countries, including Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and the Philippines. She also trained international journalists to use DHS data accurately in reporting. Ms. Nybro has an M.P.H. in global maternal and child health from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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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.