Demographic Surveillance and Field Research Center

 Background

In the poorest countries of the world where 1 billion people are living and the burden of disease is highest, no one registers those who are born or who die or ascertains the causes of their deaths. From the limited data available, the health profile of these populations can be likened to an iceberg: the bulk of reliable data on trends in age, gender, geographic variations, and burden of disease remains hidden.

     Traditional sources of health information collected from health facilities often serve as the basis for health-services planning and allocation of resources in many developing countries. Yet, health facility-based data provide only fragmentary and biased information. Not all population groups have geographic or economic access to health facilities. Thus, health facility-based data are not representative of the health problems of all rural and urban communities and, therefore, do not reflect their health status.

In Ethiopia, because of the absence of vital event registration system and many of the deaths occur at home, most deaths are left undocumented. Even if facility-based routine health information systems could be strengthened to provide improved mortality information, their ability to generate representative statistics is limited in the country, where the vast majority of deaths take place outside of health facilities. Although Census (conducted every 10 years), demographic and health surveys (conducted every 5 years), and ANC sentinel surveillance data from the facility level are available, such sources of information may not lead to address important health and demographic indicators for timely evidence-based decision making. Reliable data on basic demographic events and health outcomes, such as trends in mortality and burden of disease remains unknown. This great void in population-based information constitutes a major and longstanding constraint on the articulation of effective policies and programs to improve the health of the poor and thus perpetuates profound inequities in health.

Therefore, the need to establish a reliable information base to support health development has been recognized to be indispensable, and ideally, a reliable health and demographic information should be population and community based, inclusive of all groups, and collected continuously. This can be best met through Demographic Surveillance System [DSS] that collect demographic and health related data in a geographically defined populations. Within DSS a geographically defined population is under continuous demographic monitoring, with timely production of data on all births, deaths, pregnancy observations and outcomes, marriages and in-and-out migrations. This monitoring system provides a platform for a wide range of health-system innovations, as well as social, economic, behavioural and health interventions.

The DSS can also help to monitor and track new health threats, such as emerging and re-emerging infectious disease, it can also help to alert the health community to prepare a response. This information can serve as a platform for action-oriented research to test and evaluate health interventions, health-education messages, and the cost-effectiveness of initiatives. The DSS provides a platform for other studies within the same geographic area. This includes provision of initial sampling frame, adjustment for confounding variables, provision of additional explanatory variables, and measurement of the demographic impact of interventions.

   Inline with its commitment to respond to societal needs at local, national and international levels, rigorous research and high calibre trained manpower production, Bahir Dar University establishes Tana Demographic and Field Research Centre (TDFRC) in its vicinity.

 Purposes of Establishment

Bahir Dar University aims to attain excellence in research, higher level training, and serving the community at all levels with the over all goal of national and regional development as well as meaningful contribution in science and technology to the world. Accordingly, the BDU will use TDFRC for the following purposes:

  • Conduct community based education; students will attach to the community to enable them assimilate what they have learnt in the classroom to the real community situation.
  • Undertake research on national and/ or regional priority problems
  • Empower the local people to build model development community, and share experiences gained with and from the wider society
  • Masters and PhD level students will conduct their research at the site enabling them to be competent and confident enough before they graduate
  • Scientists of the university can conduct researches of rigorous design which spirally strengthen the training and the services the university provides
  • The research centre will serve as a shared interest creating collaboration with other universities and research centres around the glob there by contributing at wider levels in development of innovations  
  • Multimethod, multidisciplinary, and multicultural researches and interventions can be piloted and evaluated
  • The continuous high quality data on demographic, health, and other related data will enable local service providers, administrators, and development agents to make evidence-based decisions benefiting the community in the site and even beyond the site.
  • The data collected continuously generation after generation will help to clearly understand health problems prevailing in the area, their causes and appropriate interventions.
  • The data collected can be analyzed with data from other similar centres at national and international level to generate information that can be useful for decision making in countries of the world where such information is lacking.