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Improving the utilisation of demographic and health surveys as a source of health information
Authors: Tim Adair
Source: Pacific Health Dialog, 18(1):103-19
Topic(s): Data use
Country: More than one region
  Multiple Regions
Published: APR 2012
Abstract: In many countries, existing health data sources are underutilised to inform health decision-making. Improving the capacity of public health officials to assess, analyse and interpret existing data is a primary means for overcoming this issue. One data source with much potential to inform health policy is the Demographic and Health Survey (OHS). The OHS, which has been conducted in over 90 countries, collects data in a standardised fashion that can produce a range of key indicators for health policy, including health outcomes, health service utilisation, environmental factors, and demographic and socio-economic factors. The OHS also allows for comparison of indicators over time within a country, as well as comparison of indicators between countries. This article details the type of data available in the OHS and details a range of indicators that can be produced from these data. A major advantage of the OHS is that the datasets are freely available for analysis. The OHS therefore provides much potential for harnessing existing skills of public health officials and researchers to assess, analyse and interpret its wealth of data. This article presents tools, for use in Stata software, to compute these indicators and analyse them according to geographic, socio-economic and other factors. Such tools can be adjusted to suit the type of information the analyst wishes to derive from the data. Improving the use of OHS data in settings where health data from other sources is lacking will strengthen the evidence-base for health policy.