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Demographic and Health Surveys(DHS)
History and Background

Over 30 Years of History
The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) project is the third consecutive worldwide research project initiated by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide data and analysis on the population, health, and nutrition of women and children in developing countries. Its two predecessors, the World Fertility Survey (WFS) and the Contraceptive Prevalence Surveys (CPS), paved the way for the DHS project by focusing their research on questions related to fertility, family planning, and mortality. They also helped develop DHS'' current reputation as a leader in the field of demographic and health research.

For the past 20 years, DHS has added to the work of WFS and CPS by incorporating, as part of its data collection, a comprehensive list of new topics and features such as questions on maternal and child health and HIV/AIDS, the incorporation of qualitative research, Service Provision Assessment (SPA) surveys and AIDS Indicators Surveys, the use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), and biological testing (biomarkers) for a wide range of health conditions, including HIV. DHS also collects vital gender-related data to enhance understanding of how gender affects family health. Thanks to the STATcompiler and the HIV/AIDS Survey Indicators database, DHS users now have the possibility to build customized tables on the Web from hundreds of DHS surveys and indicators.

A key focus of the project for the current round of surveys is to enhance the use of household and health facility information by policymakers and program managers, thus strengthening the critical "link" between the communication and dissemination of survey results and the decision-making process.

"…I never realized how useful it was going to be and had no way of anticipating 30 years ago that so many people, so many organizations, so many governments including our own would base decisions on the DHS and its predecessor."

Excerpt from a press briefing given by Dr. Duff Gillespie, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Global Health, USAID, on the occasion of a symposium celebrating Thirty Years of USAID Efforts in Population and Health Data Collection, held at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, June 3, 2002.
Important Dates in the History of DHS

1972-1984   The need for comparative data on a global scale spurs the creation of the World Fertility Survey (WFS). The WFS conducts surveys of fertility, family planning, and infant and child mortality in more than 60 countries.
1977-1985   Contraceptive Prevalence Surveys, a more focused survey program, is designed to quickly provide basic indicators on family planning and fertility.
1984-1997   The DHS project is established at the Institute for Resource Development, Inc. (IRD), a subsidiary of the Westinghouse Electric Company. DHS combines the qualities of the WFS and the CPS and adds important questions on maternal and child health and nutrition.
DHS I (1984-1989)
DHS II (1988-1993)
DHS III (1992-1997)
1989   IRD is acquired by Macro International Inc.
1997-2003   DHS is folded into USAID''s multi-project MEASURE program as MEASURE DHS+, which incorporates traditional DHS features, expands the content on maternal and child health and adds biomarker testing to numerous surveys.
2003-2008   In October 2003, under the new MEASURE DHS project, ORC Macro joins forces with Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health/Center for Communication Programs (Hopkins CCP), PATH, Casals and Associates, and Jorge Scientific Corporation (JSC) to expand data collection efforts and access to and use of demographic and health data on developing countries.

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