What’s in a Name?

Written by: Sunita Kishor

03 Mar, 2014

The Demographic and Health Surveys Program, 2013-2018

For those of us who have worked with the Demographic and Health Surveys over the last 30 years, we usually just say “theDHS” when we talk about them.  As in, “I work atDHS”, or “I usedDHS data”, or “They’re doing aDHS”.  In 1998, the Demographic and Health Surveys became a part of USAID’sMEASURE family, a group of projects doing survey and M&E work.  While most people knew that our formal name was MEASURE DHS, among friends we were still just “TheDHS”.

And then suddenly, around 2008, we had acronym competition from the ‘other’DHS. That’s right: the Department of Homeland Security, no less. Imagine being in a foreign country, a meeting at USAID, or even at a cocktail party, mentioning you work for theDHS and having this interpreted as something entirely different (Danville High school, anyone?). So in 2013, whenUSAID’sMEASURE umbrella ceased to be, it was clear that we needed to be something more than simply “DHS”.  But what?  At first glance, “The Demographic and Health Surveys Program” or “The DHS Program” seems like an innocuous project name.  But to us, it represents a lot more.

As a Program, we are representing not one contract withUSAID, but 30 years of data collection in more than 90 countries.

As a Program, we are not just our flagship household survey, but a suite of surveys, data management, biomarker testing and GIS and research activities.

As a Program, we encompass far more than just data collection, but are charged with strengthening capacity, communicating complex information, analyzing data, and ensuring thatDHS data are used to inform decisions all over the globe to improve the health of families and communities.

The DHS Program

The DHS Program is no longer just a survey project.  The surveys are the vehicles for training local data collection staff, strengthening lab capacity, informing journalists, and answering challenging research questions. The surveys are opportunities for global cooperation and diplomacy.  The surveys are the tangible results of decades of U.S. contributions towards international development.  What is captured in a DHS final report is only the tip of the iceberg.

The DHS Program has been given a tremendous opportunity to grow even larger in scope in the coming five years. We look forward to working with colleagues across the globe, and welcome conversation via our new blog platform.


  • Dr. Kishor is Director of The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) Program. She is a gender expert, demographer, and survey specialist with 20 years of experience in the collection of high-quality gender data in developing countries. She has been responsible for the design, implementation, and analysis of questionnaire modules on women's empowerment and domestic violence in population-based surveys. Dr. Kishor works with DHS staff and stakeholders to integrate gender into implementation and research activities, develops gender-sensitive indicators and dissemination materials, and helps develop and update the Gender Corner of the DHS Web site. She also co-managed the third National Family Health Survey in India, a DHS survey of more than 100,000 households, with 200,000 individuals interviewed in all Indian states. Dr. Kishor has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Maryland, College Park.

One thought on “What’s in a Name?

  1. I’m a nurse by profession currently studying BA in social work practice and development.Am interested in becoming part of the work force in DHS,but don’t know how to go about it.How do I join and what is the entry requirement? I have seen and heard people going for surveys in health related issues but have withheld information on how one ca become part of the team.I will be thankful if am considered.

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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.