Even small communities can conduct big surveys. In Lafayette, Ind. (population 67,140) a coalition of health care providers, social service agencies, local government and the Tippecanoe County Health Department, drew upon existing resources to conduct a community health survey.
Rather than make up questions on the fly, organizers modeled the survey on questions asked in an older United Way survey. They also created a Web page where residents can easily take the survey – but also partnered with four brick-and mortar locations (community health clinics, public libraries) around town where a paper version is also available. Then they let the local newspaper and others know about the survey in hopes the word would spread.
“When we compile the results of the assessment, we’ll know what service gaps and needs we may have,” Pauline Shen, county epidemiologist, said in a story with the local paper. “And the data will be critical as we apply for grants to meet these needs.”
The goal? 1,000 responses – 1% of Lafayette’s population.
Surveys – even small, informal ones – help us to better understand the health of our community. Through them we learn, “What are the strengths in our community?” “What are the health concerns?” and “What other resources are needed in the county to address these concerns?” And even small surveys can be powerful advocacy tools so long as they are conducted in a way that is representative – i.e. getting a broad cross-section of your community, or ensuring that you have talked to EVERYONE who may be involved in an issue (even if you don’t agree with them!)
Survey tips include:
- Benefit from experience: Go online and see what other health surveys have been conducted in the past or in nearby communities. You may be able to model your own questions on these established examples.
- Use free online tools: Survey Monkey and Zoomerang, Questionform.com are websites that enables you to conduct free, online surveys. WordPress.com and Blogger enable you to create your own, free website to inform your community about the aims and goals of your survey.
- Seek local partners: Would your local school, library, health clinic or town hall help you to distribute the survey? They just might, especially if you explain clearly the goals of the survey and of your group or organization. And don’t forget to tell local media – they’ll help get the word out too!
Finding Information for a Community Health Assessment – UNC Health Sciences Library
Community Health Assessment Guide Book – North Carolina Public Health