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Cover of The design of a survey questionnaire to measure perceptions and behaviour during an influenza pandemic: the Flu TElephone Survey Template (FluTEST)

The design of a survey questionnaire to measure perceptions and behaviour during an influenza pandemic: the Flu TElephone Survey Template (FluTEST)

Health Services and Delivery Research, No. 2.41

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Author Information and Affiliations
Southampton (UK): NIHR Journals Library; .


The study uncovered the key variables that should be measured in a survey questionnaire during a future influenza pandemic to enable policy-makers and public health experts to understand public perceptions and behaviour, and make evidence-based decisions on what issues to focus on, and how to do this effectively, when communicating with the general public.



During the 2009–10 influenza (flu) pandemic, surveys to assess behaviour among the general public were designed quickly and suffered from methodological deficits as a result. To facilitate survey work in a future pandemic we (1) identified variables relating to behaviour, perceptions and presence of symptoms that were of relevance to policy-makers and other public health experts; (2) tested and refined the wording of questions to measure these variables; (3) assessed the reliability of responses to these questions; and (4) tested whether non-response bias due to attrition might prevent the use of a longitudinal design for future pandemic-related surveys.


To design, test and refine a set of questions to assess perceptions and behaviours in relation to a pandemic flu outbreak.


We identified variables via existing systematic reviews and through consultation with pandemic flu planners from Public Health England, the English Department of Health, their advisory groups and academic colleagues. We adapted questions from existing scales or developed them afresh, and tested their clarity in three rounds of qualitative interviews with members of the public (total n = 78). We used a random-digit dial telephone survey of adults from Great Britain (n = 1080) to assess the internal reliability of scales. We used a follow-up survey 1–2 weeks later to assess the test–retest reliability of responses and the differences between responders (n = 621) and non-responders (n = 459).


We identified seven core sets of outcome variables relating to the presence of flu-like illness and to various protective behaviours, as well as a set of likely predictor variables for the behaviours. Qualitative interviews identified multiple issues with our questions, most of which we resolved. Reliability of the items was largely satisfactory. Evidence of non-response bias was found, with non-responders being younger and less well educated than responders, and differing on several flu-related variables.


It would be ill-advised for public health bodies to enter the next pandemic without a plan for how to measure the public’s behaviours and perceptions. The extensive set of items that we compiled as part of this work has the benefit of being evidence based, policy relevant and readily understood. Although choosing how to gather data still requires consideration, these items can be used with confidence as soon as the next pandemic begins. Future work should consider the most appropriate method for conducting surveys using these items.

Study registration:

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN40930724.


This project was funded by The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research programme and will be published in full in Health Services and Delivery Research; Vol. 2, No. 41. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Article history

The research reported in this issue of the journal was funded by the Health Services and Delivery Research programme as project number 11/46/21. The contractual start date was in August 2012. The report detailing the set up phase and initial outcomes began editorial review in July 2014 and was accepted for publication in October 2014. The authors have been wholly responsible for all data collection, analysis and interpretation, and for writing up their work. The Health Services and Delivery Research editors and production house have tried to ensure the accuracy of the authors’ report and would like to thank the reviewers for their constructive comments on the final report document. However, they do not accept liability for damages or losses arising from material published in this report. Should the study progress further, the full report will be published in the Health Services and Delivery Research journal.

Declared competing interests of authors


Copyright © Queen’s Printer and Controller of HMSO 2014. This work was produced by Rubin et al. under the terms of a commissioning contract issued by the Secretary of State for Health. This issue may be freely reproduced for the purposes of private research and study and extracts (or indeed, the full report) may be included in professional journals provided that suitable acknowledgement is made and the reproduction is not associated with any form of advertising. Applications for commercial reproduction should be addressed to: NIHR Journals Library, National Institute for Health Research, Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre, Alpha House, University of Southampton Science Park, Southampton SO16 7NS, UK.

Included under terms of UK Non-commercial Government License.

Bookshelf ID: NBK263566PMID: 25642523DOI: 10.3310/hsdr02410


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