National booze and drug poll widens

By Staff writers

Australia’s largest official survey of population drug use is actively considering new ways of gleaning vital health information from people as it tries to grow response rates while keeping costs down.

Tender documents calling for bids to undertake fieldwork for the 2013 National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) reveal that automated telephone and web based responses are now on the table as potential collection methods as people become more comfortable with technology.

The nationwide drug poll, which turned 10 last year, is undertaken by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on behalf of the Department of Health and Ageing.

The survey, which has a sample of around 25,000 people aged 12 years or older, is a crucial element in the body of empirical evidence that health and social policy makers use to inform decisions on major health strategies, like trying to reduce illness caused by alcohol and tobacco consumption.

It also measures the levels of illicit drug use and side effects in the community by gathering data directly from the wider population rather than relying on statistics generated by people who become involved in the health or justice systems.

The tender documents strongly suggest the intention to widen range of collection methods for the survey.

“Another data collection strategy which is under serious consideration is to use a dwelling-based sample but have a mixed-mode collection methodology where respondents could choose to complete the survey using a number of different collection modes made available to them (such as a self-completed paper questionnaire, web-based questionnaire and/or Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing initiated by respondents),” the tender documents say.

“This type of strategy would be expected to help maximise response rates and to also be a relatively cost-effective collection strategy overall. Tenderers are also encouraged to provide information and estimates based on this type of mixed-mode data collection mode.”

Any successful move to automated phone or web-based collection data collection would represent substantial progress in winning the public’s trust that there are sufficient privacy and confidentiality controls in official surveys to protect highly-sensitive personal and lifestyle information.

Australia’s main data collection agency, the Australian Bureau of Statistics, has already made substantial inroads in terms of migrating from paper to web applications for to collect data from households for the national Census.

The move to electronic collection also offers substantial upside to commercial research organisations because ultimately fewer staff are needed, thereby lowering costs to researchers and clients alike.

Bids for the 2013 NDSHS close on 26th October 2012.

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