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Revista Interamericana de Bibliografía (RIB)
Número: 1-4
Título: 1997
Sección: Artículos / Articles

Health and Social Service Data

There are three data series on health and social service-related topics in the custody of the National Archives and relevant to Latin American studies. They are the Demographic and Health Survey program (DHS) data files from the Agency for International Development (AID); the Longitudinal Study of Malnutrition and Mental Development in Guatemala, 1969-1977, from the National Institutes of Health; and the World Health Organization study of Medical Care Utilization (Buenos Aires), 1968-1969, transferred from the Agency for Health Care Policy Analysis.

The Agency for International Development (AID) is an independent, executive branch agency, which administers the U.S. foreign assistance program. The Agency assists developing countries to improve the quality of human life and to expand the range of individual opportunities by reducing hunger, ignorance, disease, and oppression (National Archives, 1992c). Among the programs of the AID is the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) program.

The focus of the DHS program is fertility, family planning, and maternal and child health and the studies were undertaken in a number of Latin American, Asian, and African countries. Surveys were conducted at both the household and individual levels. A number of data files are associated with each survey including raw data files, SPSS control statement files, and data dictionary files. The surveys include the Maternal and Child Health in Bolivia, February-July 1989, as well as surveys conducted in Brazil, 1986; Colombia, 1987; Dominican Republic, 1986; Ecuador, 1987; Guatemala, 1987; Peru, 1986; and Trinidad and Tobago, 1987. Some governments where the AID DHS have been undertaken have imposed restrictions on the use of the data.

An example of one of the AID DHS surveys was conducted by the Family Planning Association of Trinidad and Tobago between May and September 1987. They collected data from 3,806 women aged 15 to 49 and, using similar data collected in the 1977 Trinidad and Tobago Fertility Study, were able to profile aspects of fertility, family planning and child health in Trinidad and Tobago. Among the aspects identified were that fertility had declined slightly between 1977 and 1987; contraceptive use had not increased; over 40 percent of the births in 1986 were either unwanted or mistimed; and infant and child mortality had been cut almost in half between 1977 and 1987.

The Longitudinal Study of Malnutrition and Mental Development in Guatemala, 1969-1977 is a nutritional intervention study. The focus of this investigation was the relationship between malnutrition and mental development in four selected villages in rural Guatemala. According to Read et al. (1975), unlike the majority of nutrition studies which addressed severe malnutrition, this study emphasized mild to moderate malnutrition, a much more common malady among children. The study was funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development under contract with the Pan American Health Organization and conducted by the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP). There are 56 data files associated with this study including files related to childhood intelligence status, diet nutrient files for mothers and children, detailed morbidity files, and data on socio-economic status.

The World Health Organization/International Collaborative Study of Medical Care Utilization (Buenos Aires), 1968-1969, data are derived from household interviews and are recorded by individual responses, as well as aggregates. Similar studies were conducted in Canada (4 studies), Finland (1), Poland (1), the United Kingdom (1), the United States (2), and Yugoslavia (2). Information is provided on selected demographic characteristics, attitudinal and socioeconomic factors, and respondent’s perceptions of illness and its severity. Data collected on health services utilization includes use of physician services within two weeks and twelve months of interview, of hospital services within twelve months, of selected categories of medicine within two days, of dental services within one month, and of selected other services including optometrists, nurses, midwives, chiropractors, and naturopaths. Information is also provided on appointment practices, location of ambulatory contacts, respondents’ satisfaction with contacts, and immunization.