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Area residents to get a checkup with health survey

South Shore included in UW researchers' health assessment

July 6, 2010

The state of Wisconsin is headed to the doctor's office. The purpose: Gathering data to understand the factors contributing to health in the state.

The Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, a research project undertaken by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Medicine and Public Health, is sending researchers throughout the state - including the South Shore - to learn about the health of Wisconsinites. Once on location, researchers will knock on doors in neighborhoods and solicit participation in the assessment.

The program, which started in 2008, will use the data collected from roughly 800 to 1,000 households to evaluate how healthy citizens are and to determine what factors contribute to health disparities. The objective is to help future generations by identifying healthy and unhealthy habits.

"Participation in SHOW will have a long-term benefit for the state of Wisconsin," said Kristen Malecki, associate director of the program.

Expect random visits

Researchers have already started doing their work in Cudahy and South Milwaukee, and are expected to wrap up here by late July. They hit St. Francis in the spring.

The tentative schedule has researchers working in Germantown in late July, Wauwatosa in mid-August, Brown Deer in September and October, and Glendale and Greendale in October, says SHOW community outreach coordinator Mary Farrell-Stieve.

SHOW researchers will knock on doors in randomly selected census blocks. If the person who answers is between the ages of 21 and 74 and willing to participate, he or she will be interviewed at home, asked to fill out a questionnaire and then brought in for more personal questions and a physical exam.

The program sounds valuable, but nowadays, when a stranger knocks on the door, trepidation is appropriate. Local officials are doing what they can to allay concerns and encourage people to participate.

In Greendale, Sue Shepeard is the health officer and knows a valuable resource when she sees one.

"It creates a whole statistical basis," she said, explaining that those statistics can then be used in to inform decisions and benefit citizens.

She's also aware of the potential for resistance. Using 400 phone surveys as the collection method, Greendale just finished a community health assessment in the fall of 2009. There were concerns among residents as to the legitimacy of the calls, Shepeard said, and she wants people to know that SHOW workers are part of a legitimate university study doing good work.

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On the web

For more information about Survey of the Health of Wisconsin, visit show.wisc.edu

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