Online survey hopes to measure health

Questions posed on topics from smoking & exercise to disease

DO you smoke? How much do you drink? How often do you exercise? Health officials are hoping North Shore residents, and others, will be prepared to give up some of that information as part of a health survey being conducted across the province.

Three local health organizations are conducting the online survey. The My Health My Community web-based survey is a collaboration between Vancouver Coastal Health, Fraser Health and the UBC Faculty of Medicine's eHealth Strategy office.

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The survey is designed to collect important health information from residents aged 18 years and older from communities across the province.

"We want to encourage people to do the survey," said Dr Brian O'Connor, chief medical health officer for the North Shore. "All of us, including the citizens who do it, will find when the data is aggregated it will be interesting information

and will tell us a little bit about the health of ourselves as a society and our communities."

Organizers are hoping to get between 40,000 and 50,000 responses within the next year from both healthy and unhealthy individuals. Participants are encouraged to provide information on everything from health status and lifestyle choices, such as smoking habits and physical activity, to community involvement.

O'Connor said health officials hope the survey will be repeated in the future. "So we can get a sense of how communities and individuals are progressing with respect to their health."

The North Shore Wellness Survey, a much smaller version of the survey done last November, was a pilot project for the current one, said O'Connor, to get a sense of the online process.

It was specifically designed to get information about child and family friendliness of the North Shore community, said O'Connor. "And what we might be able to understand about that issue and how we might begin to work to make it more child and family friendly."

One important piece of information to come out of that study was the lack of affordable daycare spaces on the North Shore, said O'Connor.

"The other thing that we found in the wellness survey was

the importance of a sense of community belonging," he said. "The more connected you are to your community the healthier you reported yourself to be and the more you seemed to be in control of the issues in your daily life."

The newest survey, started late last month, will have a much broader focus on health and community issues and will not be limited to the North Shore.

"The information is hopefully going to be available, for instance, to health authority planners, to local municipal planners, to community organizations and agencies," said O'Connor. "So that they have a chance to see what are the issues in our community, where are the pressure points and how can we respond."

Participants access the survey online through the My Health My Community website. O'Connor said security precautions have been taken to ensure personal information remains private.

"I can tell you this project, this survey would not have passed the UBC ethics approval if it didn't have that sort of a proviso and guarantee that privacy would be very, very much protected," he said. "This is something we take very seriously and it will be safe guarded."

To participate in the survey, visit myhealthmycommunity. org.

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