Surveyors going door-to-door to identify greatest health concerns in McLennan County

WACO, Texas (KWTX) – At the end of this week, public health workers will become door-knockers in McLennan County to gather data which will help determine the community’s biggest health needs and deficiencies.

“What we’re doing right now: it’s called a CASPER,” said Vaidehi Shah, Senior Epidemiologist at The Waco-Mclennan County Public Health District. “It’s a part of our larger community health needs assessment.”

CASPER stands for: Community Assessment for Public Health Emergency Response, a door-to-door survey method developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Oct. 7 & Oct. 8, Waco-McLennan County Public Health District workers will be in certain areas of the county asking residents about their health needs and concerns.

“Whatever data we will collect, we will use it to plan, and act, and meet the unmet health needs,” said Shah.

Public health officials say they won’t be asking specific questions about a person’s health in the survey–they say the questions will be vague, open-ended, and will cover a broad assortment of health-related topics including exercise, infant and mother mortality, food access, mental health, infectious diseases, etc.

“We have a wide range of questions we will be asking the community,” said Shah. “The questions range from: what are the challenges that you face in your neighborhood, what are the strengths, what are the services that can be improved, what, according to them, are the top health needs in the community?”

One key part of survey: it’s done at random, so some cities within the county could be left out entirely because, for the purpose of the survey, it’s divided into 30 clusters.

“We go to each of the clusters and collect seven interviews from each cluster,” said Shah.

If your ‘cluster’ is picked, expect to see workers walking around wearing “public health” labeled t-shirts who are driving marked vehicles.

Shah says law enforcement in each of the areas has already been notified.

All survey interviews will be conducted outside of the home.

While the survey is anonymous and voluntary, those who participate will be given gift cards.

The goal is to get 210 responses to help the district narrow down three-to-five health areas the county needs to focus on.

“The reason we’re collecting this data is to know ‘what are the health needs’ so that we can plan interventions and plan programs to meet those needs,” said Shah. “That’s why we need people to tell us, to answer these questions on what the needs are, so that we can serve them better.”

Those wanting to take part in the survey who weren’t selected in the door-to-door method will get the chance when an online version of the survey is released at a later date.

Shah says it will take about a year to collect and analyze the data.

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