Since the development of immunization surveys in the 1950s to evaluate poliomyelitis vaccination programs, CDC has traditionally used population based surveys to evaluate public health programs, including the worldwide smallpox eradication program in the 1960s and 1970s. Through an agreement with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) lasting over 35 years, CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health has provided technical assistance to ministries of health and other implementing partners to conduct RHS surveys. When they began in 1975, the USAID-supported CDC surveys were Contraceptive Prevalence Surveys (CPS). These surveys were expanded to include maternal and child health concerns and in the early 1980s were renamed the Maternal and Child Health/Family Planning Surveys (MCH/FP). Later that decade, the MCH/FP surveys further expanded to encompass additional reproductive health issues and became the RHS. Additionally, 15 Young Adult Reproductive Health Surveys (YARHS) were conducted between the years of 1985 and 2001, focusing on young men and women aged 15-24. Consequently, early surveys do not bear the RHS name, but provide comparable data. The questions included in the RHS surveys conducted since the late 1980’s are comparable with those conducted as part of the series of Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conducted by ICF Macro, but the datasets have not been recoded into a standardized format.
While largely focused on Latin America and Eastern Europe in recent years, RHS data are available for countries in other regions of the world as well. RHS questionnaires are adapted to the data requirements of each country. The topics covered in the surveys generally include fertility, family planning, infant and child mortality, maternal and child health including pregnancy, delivery and postpartum care, birth weight, immunization, breastfeeding, HIV/AIDS, adolescent and young adult sexuality, and general health practices. Selected surveys have also included information on abortion, STI’s, anthropometric measures, anemia, violence against women, maternal mortality, maternal morbidity, school attendance and child development. While all of the surveys involved interviews of reproductive age women, some of the surveys have also included interviews with men.
Summaries, and in many cases datasets and reports, for all surveys in this series are available on the GHDx. Additionally, RHS indicators are included in the MEASURE DHS STATcompiler.