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Am J Public Health. 1979 March; 69(3): 238–245.
PMCID: PMC1619081

A comparison of mail, telephone, and home interview strategies for household health surveys.


The method of data collection in household health surveys can be a major determinant of cost and data quality. A survey strategy can comprise mail, telephone, or home interview methods, individually or in combination to follow up non-respondents. The purpose of this study in Montreal was to compare cost and data quality of various strategies. Strategies which began with mail or telephone contact, followed by the two other methods, provided response rates as high as a home interview strategy (all between 80 and 90 per cent), for one-half the cost of home interviews when used as the sole method. The telephone response rate was higher than the mail response rate. Comparing different follow-up approaches to strategies beginning with mail or telephone, it proved less costly, and equally effective, to use home interviewing as a last resort for persistent non-respondents. Validity of response (comparing individual responses with records of a government health insurance data bank) and willingness to answer sensitive questions were greatest in mail strategy.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Enterline PE, Salter V, McDonald AD, McDonald JC. The distribution of medical services before and after "free" medical care--the Quebec experience. N Engl J Med. 1973 Nov 29;289(22):1174–1178. [PubMed]
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  • ENTERLINE PE, CAPT KG. A validation of information provided by household respondents in health surveys. Am J Public Health Nations Health. 1959 Feb;49(2):205–212. [PMC free article] [PubMed]
  • Meltzer JW, Hochstim JR. Reliability and validity of survey data on physical health. Public Health Rep. 1970 Dec;85(12):1075–1086. [PMC free article] [PubMed]

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