Obtaining district-level health estimates using geographically masked location from Demographic and Health Survey data

Emily Wilson, Elizabeth Hazel, Lois Park, Emily Carter, Lawrence H. Moulton, Rebecca Heidkamp, Jamie Perin

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) data are an important source of maternal, newborn, and child health as well as nutrition information for low- and middle-income countries. However, DHSs are often unavailable at the administrative unit that is most interesting or useful for program planning. In addition, the location of DHS survey clusters are geomasked within 10 km, and prior to 2009, may have crossed district boundaries. We aim to use DHS surveyed information with these geomasked coordinates to estimate district assignments for use in health program planning and evaluation. Methods: We developed three methods to assign a district to a geomasked survey cluster in two DHS surveys from Malawi: 2000 and 2004. Method A assigns districts of origin in proportion to the likelihood that results from repeated simulated geomasking, allowing more than one possible district of origin. Method B assigns a single district of origin which contains the greatest proportion of simulated geomasked survey clusters. Method C maps the geomasked survey cluster's location to a district polygon. We used these method assignments to estimate a selection of commonly used coverage indicators for each district. We compared the district coverage estimates, confidence intervals, and concordance correlation coefficients, by each of the methods, to those which used validated district assignments in 2004, and we looked at coverage change from 2000 to 2004. Results: The methods we tested each approximated the validated estimates in 2004 by confidence interval comparison and concordance correlation coefficient. Estimated agreement for method A was between.14 and.98, for method B the estimated agreement was between.97 and.99, and for method C the agreement ranged from.93 to.99 when compared with the validated district assignments. Therefore, we recommend the protocol which is the simplest to implement - method C - overlaying geomasked survey cluster within district polygon. Conclusions: Using geomasked survey clusters from DHSs to assign districts provided district level coverage rates similar to those using the validated surveyed locations. This method may be applied to data sources where survey cluster centroids are available and where district level estimates are needed for program implementation and evaluation in low- and middle-income settings. This method is of special interest to those using DHSs to study spatiotemporal trends as it allows for the utilization of historic DHS data where geomasking hinders the generation of reliable subnational estimates of health in areas smaller than the first-order administrative unit (ADM1).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 10 2020


  • DHS
  • Disaggregation
  • District
  • Geolocation
  • Household surveys
  • Subnational

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'Obtaining district-level health estimates using geographically masked location from Demographic and Health Survey data'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this