How GDD Uses Demographic and Health Survey Data

DHS Program


What is The DHS Program?

The Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) program began in 1984 and is currently funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by ICF International. DHS surveys are nationally representative household surveys that provide data for a wide range of monitoring and impact evaluation indicators, including fertility, contraception, maternal and child health, HIV, AIDS, malaria, domestic violence, nutrition, and more. DHS originated from the World Fertility Surveys and Contraceptive Prevalence Surveys implemented in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the DHS program has conducted over 400 nationally representative and internationally comparable household surveys in more than 90 countries. Standard DHS surveys have large sample sizes (between 5,000 and 30,000 households) and are typically conducted in a country every 5 years.


How GDD Uses DHS Data

The GDD model focuses on nutrition and dietary patterns, and therefore includes DHS survey data collected on child and adult nutritional status. The DHS questionnaires ask general questions surrounding food consumption and intake like, “Yesterday during the day or at night, did (NAME) eat pumpkin, carrots, squash, or sweet potatoes that are yellow or orange inside?” with responses limited to “Yes”, “No”, “Don’t Know”, and occasionally “Number of times.” Despite certain limitations of this dietary assessment method, DHS surveys are used by many researchers around the world and are an extremely valuable tool for gathering data, particularly in low-resource countries (e.g. 44 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa). These surveys are also unique in that they often specify dietary intakes for children, an age group that is of current particular focus for GDD.

DHS is just one example of survey types used in the GDD model. If you have any questions about the types of data incorporated in the GDD estimates please feel free to reach out to us at and if you would like more information on DHS surveys, please visit


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The Global Dietary Database (GDD) is a collaborative effort to produce the most reliable estimates of dietary intake worldwide. The GDD is based on data from demographic health surveys (DHS), which are large-scale surveys that collect information on a variety of topics, including dietary intake. The GDD uses a variety of methods to estimate dietary intake, including 24-hour recalls, food frequency questionnaires, and biomarkers.

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