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Guiding Framework: Data Sources

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)


Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) are collected in over 90 countries. More than 300 surveys have been conducted since 1984 when DHS data were first collected. DHS contain information on select nutrition indicators, as well as fertility, reproductive health, maternal health, child health, immunization, HIV/AIDS, maternal and child mortality, malaria, and anthropometry, as well as other indicators. DHS data do not include comprehensive food consumption data, although several infant and young child consumption indicators on breastfeeding and feeding practices are collected. In addition, a number of indicators that are relevant to nutrition outcomes can be calculated (e.g. stunting and wasting).

Specific food consumption indicators that can be calculated with DHS data, include:

  • Initial breastfeeding
  • Breastfeeding status
  • Median duration and frequency of breastfeeding
  • Percentage of children breastfed six or more times
  • Percentage of children 6-23 months who are fed according to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices


  • Publicly available and well documented
  • Relatively easy to access and analyze
  • Provides information on trends due to routine collection of data in many countries (~5 years)
  • A core set of survey modules is standardized across countries allowing for comparability over time and place; some countries include additional modules (e.g. biomarker data)


  • Does not include food consumption data on entire diet
  • Only representative of children under five years old and women 15-49 years old

Key take-away points: Methods and types of indicators that can and cannot be derived with these data

There are a number of ways that DHS data can be leveraged for food security and nutrition analyses.  Some specific examples of how they can be used include:

  • Useful data source if you are interested in breastfeeding trends and infant and young child feeding practices within, or across, countries
  • Can be used to provide insights related to nutrition and health outcomes both within, and across, countries over time


1) DHS Overview:

2) DHS and Nutrition:

24-Hour Dietary Recall (24HR)

7 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS)

2 Indicators Quality Quantity

Food Balance Sheets (FBS)

10 Indicators Quality Quantity Stability Sustainability

Food Frequency Questionnaire (FFQ)

5 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)

11 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity

Market data (e.g. Euromonitor)

6 Indicators Quality Quantity Stability


4 Indicators Quality Quantity

Weighed Food Record (WFR)

6 Indicators Cultural Preference Quality Quantity