Conferences Discuss How to Improve Health Data Survey Collection Methods

Conference on health survey methods

The University of Illinois at Chicago held two conferences on health survey research methods, one in 1995 and another in 1999. The conferences, which first began in 1975, examine the strengths and limitations of health survey data and survey methods and cover ways they can be improved.

Key Results

  • The Sixth Conference on Health Survey Research Methods was held in Breckenridge, Colo., June 24–26, 1995. In all, 65 researchers and policy-makers attended the conference, representing universities, the federal government and both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Twenty-nine papers were selected from 150 submissions. The selected papers were in five topic areas:

    • Measuring Medical Care and Health Status.
    • Research on Survey Questions.
    • Sampling and Cooperation.
    • Special Populations and Sensitive Issues.
    • Integrating Surveys and Other Data.

    Speakers gave updates on sampling the aged, street prostitutes, homeless people and groups at high risk for HIV infection. Conferees also discussed how best to select random samples for studies of health care.

  • The Seventh Conference on Health Survey Research Methods, which was held September 24–27, 1999, in Williamsburg, Va. Seventy-six people attended the conference, representing universities, the federal government and both nonprofit and for-profit organizations. There were 27 presentations and nine discussion papers, which were grouped into five topic areas:

    • Collecting Data From Children and Adolescents.
    • Racial and Ethnic Populations: Cross-Cultural Considerations.
    • Comparability of Data Across Different Modes of Data Collection.
    • Validity of Results.
    • Needs for State and Local Data of National Relevance.


    Conferees discussed the growing tension between the need to protect human subjects—especially vulnerable populations—and the goals of achieving high participation rates and collecting acceptable levels of data.

    A second, related theme was the need to reach children, adolescents and racial, ethnic and other minority groups directly instead of relying on parents and other proxies to provide data for these groups.

    Participants said that the evidence indicates that this can be done and that it often provides different data than if collected from proxies. Conferees also debated whether survey researchers should use standardized methods and measures for all survey respondents or should adapt them for the groups under scrutiny.

  • The proceedings of both conferences were published by the National Center for Health Statistics The proceedings of the Seventh Conference are also available on the national center's website.

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