Need For Surveys In The Health And Social CareThere are many needs and imperatives for organisations involved in health and
social care to carry out surveys. Surveys can be part of health promotion
activities, they can be linked to local Health Improvement Plans, or inform work
on reducing inequalities in health. Surveys are also used to monitor access to
health care services and satisfaction with these.
Within the NHS, the current needs and NHS priorities are laid out in key policy
documents such as the NHS Plan, Saving Lives and the Modernisation Programme.
Surveys should therefore collect data that are relevant and help to measure
progress against specific targets. In addition, the White Paper,
Health: Making Choices Easier emphasises the importance of information and
evidence, some of which will require local lifestyle surveys to be conducted.
Using Health and Lifestyle Surveys to Measure Inequality
Health and Lifestyle surveys are commonly used to examine issues
around inequalities in health at a local area level. For local area
health inequalities to be examined successfully, a wide range of aspects
including the following need to be considered;
- What indicator of inequality to choose?
- How is the indicator to be used?
- How will we compare between groups, or areas, over time?
For further details, click here
Why a Health and Lifestyle Survey?
There are many reasons to carry out a Health and Lifestyle Survey.
Below are some of the objectives of some of the Lifestyle surveys
conducted recently, which demonstrate the reasons organisations have
given for conducting a Health and Lifestyle Survey.
- To target health and social care resources appropriately in
order to improve the health of the population
- To provide a baseline for monitoring the impact of interventions
designed to improve health and well-being.
- To allow comparisons between the behaviours of people in the
- To provide information that could be used to plan new services.
- To highlight areas to explore further, especially in terms of
Examples Health & lifestyle surveys
Health and lifestyle surveys have become an
established method of gathering information over the
last 30 years. Some key references, providing sound
advice and guidance, date back to the early 1970's.
Although there are common and recurring themes, surveys
can vary enormously in their scale and scope. The
following Lifestyle surveys illustrate this:
Lifestyles of people living in Portsmouth and
South East Hampshire
Case Study: Oxford Regional Healthy Lifestyle Survey
"The first Oxford Regional Healthy
Lifestyle Survey was conducted with the aim of
collecting baseline data on the health and
health-related lifestyles of the local adult
population, which could be used to help plan the
Region's health promotion strategy and to target
areas of need. The Health and Lifestyle Survey
was one of the first of its kind in the UK, and
represented growing desire by the Regional Health
Authority to take a population rather than a patient
based approach to health services planning, and to
measure and respond specifically to local health
need". For details of the Oxford Health and
Lifestyle surveys click
designing surveys, self-complete questionnaires are most
commonly used and mailed to members of the public. The
target population may be the Electoral Roll, the GP
registers or similar sampling frame. A survey should
request information that is reasonable to provide,
should use straightforward language and be relatively
quick and easy to complete. The topics covered vary
according to the scope of an individual survey, but
generally cover questions on health and illness, and
factors that affect health, such as behaviour and
National and regional surveys
National and regional surveys of health
and lifestyle are important due to their geographical
coverage, methodological rigour, their capacity to
provide trend data, and as they incorporate new topics.
A number of surveys are carried out on a
continuous or repeating basis and these provide a good
source of reliable data, with trends over time. National
surveys are often carried out by interviewers in
people's homes, so will differ from what can be achieved
with postal or self-complete questionnaires.
Interviewing is much more costly than a postal survey,
and unfortunately questions used in this format do not
necessarily work the same when used in a mailed
The General Household Survey contains
certain topics related to health and lifestyle – notably
smoking. Results from this have been published annually
since 1971 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
The Health Survey for England is a major
annual survey with national coverage carried out for the
Department of Health since 1993. It consists of
face-to-face interviews and specifically addresses
health, with a wide range of health and health behaviour
questions. Each year the Health Survey for England has a
particular focus and this changes over time. Similar
surveys are carried out every few years in Scotland and
National surveys use robust methods and
provide reliable and authoritative health and lifestyle
information. Use national statistics when planning a
survey, for estimating health and lifestyle in your area
or for comparison with primary data.
There is good internet access to these
and other national surveys, e.g. psychiatric health,
health of ethnic minority groups, smoking among
school-children, etc. Details and links to many of these
national and regional surveys in given in the
Question Bank and
Resource Bank of this Toolkit.