Population health in practice: towards a comparative historical ethnography of the Demographic Health Survey

This project will explore how population health data is made in practice; how data practices have varied across time and space; and how these variations affect population health programmes.
Project status


The project will employ ethnographic and historical methods to compare the history and current implementation of the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) in Malawi, Tanzania, and Ghana. Funded primarily by USAID, since the 1980s the DHS has grown into one of the most prolific and influential population health infrastructures in the Global South. As a result, DHS data is regularly employed in the planning health interventions and resource allocation. The research will detail the social, material and political conditions which culture the collection, interpretation and mobilization of ostensibly comparable data within various national contexts. This project will, therefore, provide the first comparative analysis of how cross-sectional surveillance data is made, and made useful, within the infrastructures of Global Health.

Principal Investigator: Dr John Nott, University of Edinburgh

Sign up to our email newsletters