Comparing methods of performing geographically targeted rural health surveillance

David C. Lee, Nancy A. McGraw, Kelly M. Doran, Amanda K. Mengotto, Sara L. Wiener, Andrew J. Vinson, Lorna E. Thorpe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Worsening socioeconomic conditions in rural America have been fueling increases in chronic disease and poor health. The goal of this study was to identify cost-effective methods of deploying geographically targeted health surveys in rural areas, which often have limited resources. These health surveys were administered in New York’s rural Sullivan County, which has some of the poorest health outcomes in the entire state. Methods: Comparisons were made for response rates, estimated costs, respondent demographics, and prevalence estimates of a brief health survey delivered by mail and phone using address-based sampling, and in-person using convenience sampling at a sub-county level in New York’s rural Sullivan County during 2017. Results: Overall response rates were 27.0% by mail, 8.2% by phone, and 71.4% for convenience in-person surveys. Costs to perform phone surveys were substantially higher than mailed or convenience in-person surveys. All modalities had lower proportions of Hispanic respondents compared to Census estimates. Unadjusted and age-adjusted prevalence estimates were similar between mailed and in-person surveys, but not for phone surveys. Conclusions: These findings are consistent with declining response rates of phone surveys, which obtained an inadequate sample of rural residents. Though in-person surveys had higher response rates, convenience sampling failed to obtain a geographically distributed sample of rural residents. Of modalities tested, mailed surveys provided the best opportunity to perform geographically targeted rural health surveillance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3
JournalEmerging Themes in Epidemiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Chronic disease
  • Geographic information systems
  • Health surveillance
  • Rural health
  • Survey methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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