Back to browse results
The Development and Inclusion of Questions on Surgery in the 2018 Zambia Demographic and Health Survey
Authors: Sabrina Juran, Sanna Moren, Vatshalan Santhirapala, Lina Roa, Emmanuel Makasa, Justine Davies, Jose Miguel Guzman, Lars Hagander, Hampus Holmer, Mark G. Shrime, Thomas G. Weiser, John G. Meara, Stefanie J. Klug and David Ljungman
Source: Global Health: Science and Practice, Volume 9, issue 4; DOI:
Topic(s): Data collection
Survey Bias
Country: Africa
Published: DEC 2021
Abstract: Background: While primary data on the unmet need for surgery in low- and middle-income countries is lacking, household surveys could provide an entry point to collect such data. We describe the first development and inclusion of questions on surgery in a nationally representative Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in Zambia. Method: Questions regarding surgical conditions were developed through an iterative consultative process and integrated into the rollout of the DHS survey in Zambia in 2018 and administered to a nationwide sample survey of eligible women aged 15–49 years and men aged 15–59 years. Results: In total, 7 questions covering 4 themes of service delivery, diagnosed burden of surgical disease, access to care, and quality of care were added. The questions were administered across 12,831 households (13,683 women aged 15–49 years and 12,132 men aged 15–59 years). Results showed that approximately 5% of women and 2% of men had undergone an operation in the past 5 years. Among women, cesarean delivery was the most common surgery; circumcision was the most common procedure among men. In the past 5 years, an estimated 0.61% of the population had been told by a health care worker that they might need surgery, and of this group, 35% had undergone the relevant procedure. Conclusion: For the first time, questions on surgery have been included in a nationwide DHS. We have shown that it is feasible to integrate these questions into a large-scale survey to provide insight into surgical needs at a national level. Based on the DHS design and implementation mechanisms, a country interested in including a set of questions like the one included in Zambia, could replicate this data collection in other settings, which provides an opportunity for systematic collection of comparable surgical data, a vital role in surgical health care system strengthening.