Advocacy,  Data collection,  Demographic and Health Surveys,  Survey data

Overview of new nutrition questions in the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) core questionnaires

The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) Program just released the new DHS model questionnaires for round 8 (2018-2023). We previously shared on the blog how DHS and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) are main sources of nationally-representative maternal, newborn, child health, and nutrition data. The four DHS core questionnaires (household, woman, man, and biomarker) will be used globally, and the major updates to the survey’s nutrition content is a huge victory for nutrition measurement.

Between January and March 2019, the DHS Program accepted recommendations for changes to the DHS questionnaires through their online forum. The DHS Program reviewed over 1,000 pages of submitted content for the core questionnaires, which included requests for an additional 950+ new questions. Data for Decisions to Expand Nutrition Transformation (DataDENT) coordinated and provided technical support to develop 11 recommendations for the DHS-8 questionnaires on behalf of the global nutrition community. You can learn more about DataDENT’s support of this process in the Nutrition Recommendations for DHS-8 Core Questionnaire section of our website, including a brief that gives a comprehensive summary of the adopted nutrition changes.

New nutrition content in DHS-8 core questionnaires

We are thrilled by the new nutrition content in the DHS-8 questionnaires, which includes many changes influenced by the DataDENT-coordinated process. For the first time, countries and other nutrition stakeholders will have globally-comparable data on coverage of key nutrition interventions and practices across time. Some highlights of changes in the core questionnaires:

Nutrition stakeholders in Tanzania actively participated in the DHS review process by commenting on many of the posted recommendations. They were mobilized in large part by Debora Niyeha, a Nutritionist and Program Manager at Helen Keller International in Tanzania, who had this response to the revised core questionnaires that will be used by Tanzania for a DHS in 2020:

“I’m happy to learn of new changes in the DHS questionnaires. As a nutritionist it is hard to get nationally representative information on coverage of many nutrition interventions across delivery points. With the new data, program staff will be able to learn where the issues are and target our support to those specific pockets. To me this is an achievement!”

The DHS-8 questionnaires include several other changes that will impact nutrition data. The biomarker questionnaire has new interference questions to improve quality of anthropometric measurements. The updated woman questionnaire will only ask about pregnancy and births in the last 3 years compared to 5 years, which was done in some past surveys.

New steps for DataDENT

The DHS-8 updates represent a significant achievement for improving availability of nutrition data and are aligned with efforts to mainstream nutrition within health systems. However, there is more to be done! The new nutrition data in DHS must be used to ensure that it remains collected by DHS in future rounds. DataDENT is also currently working on guidance for measurement of nutrition intervention coverage in population-based household surveys, which will include standard questions and indicator definitions for a wider set of nutrition interventions than just those included in DHS-8. This will be useful to governments and other stakeholders who are investing in national nutrition surveys and other related data collection.


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