5.3. Data storage approach

There are two leading approaches for storing data in a data warehouse, namely the normalized and dimensional approach. DHIS2 lends a bit from the former but mostly from the latter. In the dimensional approach the data is partitioned into dimensions and facts. Facts generally refers to transactional numeric data while dimensions are the reference data that gives context and meaning to the data. The strict rules of this approach makes it easy for users to understand the data warehouse structure and provides for good performance since few tables must be combined to produce meaningful analysis, while it on the other hand might make the system less flexible and harder to change.

In DHIS2 the facts corresponds to the data value object in the data model. The data value captures data as numbers, yes/no or text. The compulsory dimensions which give meaning to the facts are the data element, organisation unit hierarchy and period dimensions. These dimensions are referred to as compulsory since they must be provided for all stored data records. DHIS2 also has a custom dimensional model which makes it possible to represent any kind of dimensionality. This model must be defined prior to data capture. DHIS2 also has a flexible model of groups and group sets which makes it possible to add custom dimensionality to the compulsory dimensions after data capture has taken place. You can read more about dimensionality in DHIS2 in the chapter by the same name.