Secondary Data Analysis
Health data are a prerequisite to improving each of the building blocks of a health system. Yet too often data that have been collected as part of a survey, special study, health project or routine health information system sit in reports, on shelves, or in databases, not interpreted and unused. To render the collected data useful in program development and improvement, policy development, strategic planning, or advocacy, they must be interpreted and made accessible to decision makers.
This analysis of data that were collected by someone else for some other purpose is called secondary data analysis. Unlike primary data analysis, in which the investigators collect and analyze their own data for a specific purpose, secondary data analyses are typically broad in scope. They are potentially more efficient in time and money compared to the cost and complexity of a new study that could otherwise take several years and considerable funding to collect. Some secondary data involve larger samples that are more representative of target populations at the regional and national levels. These advantages often outweigh the potential disadvantage that secondary data may lack depth for answering particular research or programmatic questions.
On a global scale, USAID is committed to investing in health-related research to advance health development goals. In response to this priority, MEASURE Evaluation conducts research projects analyzing secondary data, provides financial and technical support to in-country researchers conducting secondary data analysis, and develops resources to improve the analysis and use of data in health decision making.
MEASURE Evaluation’s work in secondary data analysis includes:
- Analysis of Demographic Health Surveys (DHS) to address knowledge gaps in a variety of areas such as family planning use, gender equality, HIV risk factors, and neonatal mortality;
- Use of DHS datasets while training local analysts in capacity building workshops;
- Through the MEASURE Evaluation Small Grants Program, providing financial and technical support to local researchers conducting studies using secondary data; and
- Development of tools, guides, and frameworks to assist decision makers with how to analyze secondary data and use it to inform health-related priorities and decisions.