New home for health-care research laboratory

The College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS) is now home to a research laboratory, responsible for gathering data to inform health-care decisions.

The Health and Human Sciences Survey Research Laboratory, formerly part of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development, is a call center, conducting health surveys. The phone surveys provide data for the Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (IBRFSS) and related surveys.

Survey results about the topics have been factored into legislation and health-care resources’ decisions. “This project does have positive outcomes. Some examples would be the indoor smoking ban in Illinois and lower cost mammograms,” said Bill Leighly, a survey interview supervisor.

A team of 50 to 75 surveyors contact potential participants by phone and ask general questions about an individual’s health-related risk factors. For example, participants may be asked how often they visit a doctor for a routine checkup, and if they have received certain screening exams like mammograms or prostate screening tests. Other questions may be about diet, exercise, tobacco and alcohol use. Demographic information is also collected to ensure the survey is a good cross section of the population. All surveys are anonymous, Leighly said.

The IBRFSS is part of a federal health study for the Centers for Disease Control. The surveys allow state health departments to discover trends in the population that could put them at risk for chronic health conditions, or if they are engaging in certain behaviors that might prevent certain conditions.

While the IBRFSS survey is the primary focus of the survey research lab, plans are to conduct additional health-related surveys in the future. “The Survey Research Laboratory is our college’s first core research facility. We are glad to have the capacity to do scientific surveys,” said Jim Ciesla, associate dean for Research and Resources.

According to CHHS Dean Derryl Block, the Health and Human Sciences Survey Research Lab will be an asset to the college and will provide research opportunities for students and faculty. The lab is at the Monat Building, 148 N. Third St., DeKalb. For more information about the center, or for job opportunities, contact Bill Leighly, wleighly@niu.edu, 815-753-1817.

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