Methodology

A typical DHS Program household survey more than 2 years from design to dissemination. A local implementing agency manages the survey, with technical assistance from DHS Program staff based in Rockville, Maryland. The diagram below reflects the survey process for a standard Demographic and Health Survey.

Survey Process Diagram

The DHS Program supports a range of data collection options that can be tailored to fit specific monitoring and evaluation needs of host countries. The Malaria Indicator Survey follows a process similar to the one shown above but is shorter and quicker with its content focused on malaria-related indicators. The Service Provision Assessment is a health-facility survey with a different process and methodology. Please refer to the list of surveys below to learn more about each.

Survey Stages

Stage 1: Survey Design and Preparation
Stage 2: Training and Data Collection

Stage 2 of the survey process focuses on training interviewers and other key staff on their roles and collecting the data. Fieldwork is carried out by a number of teams composed of interviewers, biomarker technicians, team supervisors, and editors.

Stage 3: Data Editing, Data Tabulation, and Report Writing

The third stage begins with data editing while Stage 2 is still in process and may continue for up to a year. Once the data are edited, it is tabulated so that report writing can begin.

Stage 4: Dissemination and Research

The final stage focuses on dissemination of the data and reports, data use and analysis, and lasts for six to seven months. After survey results are disseminated, staff at The DHS Program and implementing agencies conduct secondary analyses on the data.

Data from The DHS Program are freely available to researchers and policymakers around the world. To date, The DHS Program has published over 300 survey datasets which have been used in more than 4,000 articles published in peer-reviewed journals. To learn more about the use of DHS Program data, please visit our journal article database and our page on DHS in the News.

National Implementing Agency

As a general rule, the overall responsibility for executing a DHS resides with a single implementing agency. This is usually a governmental, non-governmental, or private-sector organization such as: a National Statistical Office, a Ministry of Health, a university, a government research group or a private research group.

National Statistical Offices are frequently selected to implement DHS Program surveys because they are generally the most experienced with the execution of large national surveys, and in many cases, are the legal authority for collecting data in the country. NSOs are also and are often the source of the necessary sampling frame. In recent years, Ministries of Health have become much more involved with DHS surveys, both due to the increased health content and the need to have access to specialized staff that can collect biological specimens such as blood samples. National Malaria Control Programs are usually selected as the implementing agency for the MIS, and Ministries of Health are often selected as the implementing agency for the Service Provision Assessment Surveys.

Technical Assistance and Capacity Strengthening

The DHS Program staff provide technical assistance at critical stages of survey implementation in order to ensure that survey procedures are consistent with the technical standards set by The DHS Program and to ensure that survey activities are progressing at a reasonable pace. Capacity strengthening is provided both virtually and during visits to the country throughout the entire survey process.

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