Chris Weiss on Resources from “Applying Survey Data to the Practice of Public Health in New York City”

I’m Chris Weiss, president of the New York City chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (NYAAPOR). Our organization brings together a wide variety of evaluators and other research professionals who are engaged in the methods, applications, analysis and findings from public opinion research. We host a slate of programmatic workshops and panel presentations to help our members learn more about current trends and state-of-the-art techniques in survey research.

One of our recent panel presentations offered several lessons that I thought would be of interest and value to members of the evaluation community. “Applying Survey Data to the Practice of Public Health in New York City,” featured presentations by three researchers from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH).

During the panel, our members learned about how survey research – and other forms of data collection beyond vital records and disease prevalence statistics – are foundational components of public health evaluation. They’re key in efforts related to public health surveillance – ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health data, essential to the planning and implementation work of DOHMH. And they’re critical to the evaluation efforts of the department, particularly in assessing the effectiveness of public health policies, such as the NYC Flavored Tobacco Products Sales Ban, or programs, including the recent youth tobacco awareness campaign.

Rad Resource: Some of the information used by researchers at DOHMH are part of larger national efforts, such as the Center for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, an annual assessment of six types of health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among American youth.

Rad Resource: On the DOHMH website’s Tools and Maps section, you can find an incredible amount of publicly available data, including Epiquery, a web-based tool to provide users with a wide range of health data. The city’s public health data resources are linked to the CDC’s National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, a national system of integrated health, exposure, and hazard data collected from local, state, and national sources.

Some of the work discussed at our evening panel was specific to New  York City, such as the Community Health Survey, an annual cross-section of 8,000 to 10,000 adults across the five boroughs, which are used to create New York City Community Health Profiles.

Rad Resource: Lastly, let me mention an outstanding resource for any evaluator: the Roper Center at Cornell University. The Roper Center’s mission is to collect, preserve, and disseminate public opinion data – and contains over 650,000 questions and answers collected since 1935. It’s an invaluable resource to see what kind of survey research has been done on any subject – all available for free!

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