The Pew Internet Project will conduct a national telephone survey this fall about the internet’s impact on health and health care. One of the first tasks is to look at our tried and true “trend” questions and decide which ones we should repeat as is and which ones need to be updated.

Since I benefit so much from reader comments on this blog, I’d like to crowd-source some questions for this survey.

The first question I would like to consider is the “screener” question which yields our estimate that 80% of internet users go online for health information.


ASK ALL INTERNET USERS (Q6a=1 or Q6b=1):
HEA05 Now, we’d like to ask if you’ve looked for information ONLINE about certain health or medical issues. Specifically, have you ever looked online for… (INSERT FIRST ITEM)? Have you ever looked online for… (INSERT NEXT ITEM: ROTATE)?
[ASK a & b FIRST, AS A PAIR IN ORDER]
a. Information about a specific disease or medical problem
b. Information about a certain medical treatment or procedure
c. Information about experimental treatments or medicines
d. Information about alternative treatments or medicines
e. Information about diet, nutrition, vitamins, or nutritional supplements
f. Information about exercise or fitness
g. Information about prescription or over the counter drugs
h. Information about immunizations or vaccinations
i. Information about how to quit smoking
j. Information about problems with drugs or alcohol
k. Information about depression, anxiety, stress or mental health issues
l. Information about environmental health hazards
[ASK m-p LAST, IN ORDER]
m. Information about sexual health
n. Information about a particular doctor or hospital
o. Information related to health insurance
p. Information about Medicare or Medicaid
q. Information about dental health

CATEGORIES
1 Yes, have done this
2 No, have not done this
9 (DO NOT READ) Don’t know/Refused

(Here is a PDF of the 2006 health topline if you want to see this question in context.)

Tom Ferguson helped me write the original list of 16 health topics in 2002. Mary Jo Deering and Cynthia Baur (who were then at HHS) suggested changes based on what they were learning from the Healthy People 2010 project. Mental health experts advised us to lead that question with “depression, anxiety, stress” in order to de-stigmatize it. Many others contributed to the list, but Princeton Survey Research Associates crafted the final language and question order.

The series was repeated as is in 2004. After hearing strong arguments from dentists, we were convinced to add “dental health” as topic #17 in 2006, but the additional question did not increase the total percentage: 80% of internet users had looked online for at least one of the issues we asked about (essentially the same as what we found in 2002 and 2004).

So, here is our biennial chance to tweak the wording or add a topic. For example, should we separate Rx and OTC drugs? If so, it will break the trend but we will finally know the breakdown between the two. Is there a topic that’s missing? I can’t promise we’ll include it, but I do want to hear about it.

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