ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Twenty-five Years of the NFHS

Lessons for the Future


There are four major sources of vital statistics in India, namely (i) the Civil Registration System (CRS); (ii) the Sample Registration System (SRS); (iii) indirect estimates from the decennial census; and (iv) direct estimates from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). Since its inception, the NFHS has immensely contributed to population and health policymaking. The successive NFHS rounds have been providing national-level information on fertility, infant and child mortality, family planning practices, maternal and child health, and reproductive health and nutrition. However, the expansion of the NFHS, in terms of its volume and scope in the successive rounds, now includes modules on a few key adult health issues, HIV/AIDS, women empowerment and domestic violence. The NFHS-4 was especially aimed to provide district-level information for a considerable number of indicators, alongside the introduction of some additional biomarkers for measuring adult health (IIPS and ICF 2017).

When the first NFHS (1992–93) data was released for further exploration of data for policy analysis, Visaria and Rajan (2009) had organised a special issue for this journal and termed the NFHS as a landmark in Indian surveys (Visaria and Rajan 1999). We had concluded that until we achieve completeness in the registration of vital events throughout the country, surveys such as the NFHS would continue to be a valuable asset for understanding the demographic dynamics of the Indian society. Where do we stand today after 25 years since the first NFHS report was published in 1995? In this introductory note, I discuss a few questions: (i) Where does the NFHS stand now as an alternative or complementary data source to the CRS? (ii) Does the hunger for data and multisectoral involvement contribute to diminishing the quality of data? (iii) What is happening to the relationship between the NFHS and Population Research Centres (PRCs)? (iv) To what extent does the NFHS serve the purpose of providing critical inputs to support the policy on vital and emerging population and health dynamics as a result of demographic and family transition? (v) What should be the role of the International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS)?

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Updated On : 24th Jun, 2020
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