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Medical Dept. queries community

The Medical Department's Health Education Service has sent out two sets of questionnaires to thousands in the MIT community in an effort to learn more about people's health concerns and guide the direction of future education programs.

Earlier this month, anonymous questionnaires were sent to 2,500 undergraduate and graduate students, and another 2,000 were sent to the homes of randomly selected subscribers to the two MIT health plans. Recipients are asked about what health education workshops and classes they know about or have used, workshop times that are most convenient, and other health promotion activities they would like to see. They are also asked to check off what health issues (such as smoking cessation, diabetes or contraception) are of concern to them, as well as to provide some personal health information.

"We're doing our long-range planning for future program development, [and] we want to know what people consider to be their most important health issues and what their everyday health choices are," explained Janet Van Ness, director of health education. "We hope to give people the opportunity to get what they need when and where they need it."

The questionnaire was based on a similar survey last spring of health care providers, who were asked about their perceptions of their patients' health needs. Differences between the responses of the providers and those who return the current questionnaires "will be one useful part of this," Ms. Van Ness said.

The Medical Department has done less extensive surveys on patient satisfaction and on alcohol use, "but to my knowledge, it's the first time the Health Education Service has gone to its constituency to seek input in such a large-scale way," she said.

The deadline for the student survey has passed, but returned forms are still being accepted. Health plan members who received a questionnaire are encouraged to return them by December 1, when reminder postcards will be sent to those who have not done so by then. Changes or additions to the service as a result of the responses may be made as early as this spring, Ms. Van Ness said.

"People seem to be responding seriously to it," she said of the student returns. "The information is looking like it's going to be fascinating."

Members of the community who would like to receive a summary of the data from the questionnaires received may call 253-1316.

A version of this article appeared in the November 17, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 14).

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