That's personal Carroll County: Health survey asks tTC questions that could affect credible responses.

July 26, 1996

THE HEALTH ISSUES questionnaire mailed to some 1,200 Carroll County households at random this month contains a lot of personal questions, some so personal that the full value of such a comprehensive survey may not be realized.

It's not just intimately personal: the six-page survey asks about patently illegal activities, and for details about "safety" that could make a fragile person feel even more vulnerable. The presence of law enforcement officials and social workers on the survey's steering committee may add to respondent apprehension.

Even if the survey is rigorously anonymous, as promised by the sponsors -- Carroll County General Hospital, the county health department and area health care providers -- there is an increased risk that responses will be untruthful or incomplete. A completed survey would provide sufficient data to identify the respondents and describe personal lives in detail.

That said, it's a survey that could help Carroll County pinpoint community health concerns and desires. A true-sample survey will better enable health planners to target specific needs of a particular community or group, rather than employing a shotgun approach to providing new services and facilities.

It would also be a good idea for most people to look at this survey and answer the questions to themselves. There's some helpful food for thought about healthy lifestyles, accommodation to problems and possible resources.

Behavior questions, as well as the usual medical histories, are an important part of the questionnaire because "50 percent of all deaths are from things people can control," says consultant Michelle Holleran, who designed the survey. Mental and spiritual health, personal safety and family conditions can significantly affect an individual's physical well-being, she noted, even though that broad holistic approach can open endless streams of possible questions.

But there's scant reference to services and quality of the local hospital or to childhood injuries, while the survey inquires about sex habits, drug use and religious practices and whether recipients of "verbal abuse" have contacted "the appropriate agency."

We hope the state-endorsed survey will produce positive results for Carroll County, even as the questions themselves raise questions.

Pub Date: 7/26/96

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