Participants can opt out of Census health survey


POSTED: Thursday, October 29, 2009

Question: We are currently being harassed by the U.S. Census to submit to a so-called “;Health Interview.”; We have been visited twice already by an “;interviewer.”; The second interviewer came at around 8:30 p.m. one night. My wife and I are not interested in submitting to a so-called “;Health Interview.”; According to a letter we received from the director of the National Center for Health Statistics (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), we can refuse to participate. So, how can we stop these people from coming?

Answer: Call the toll-free number specified in your letter, either to find out more about the interview or to say you don't want to be interviewed.

“;You can refuse”; to participate, affirmed Mary Fitzgerald, who works for the National Health Interview Survey in the Census Bureau's Los Angeles Region, which includes Hawaii. “;It's not mandatory.”;

About 1,000 to 1,400 new addresses are selected every week, nationwide, by the survey's headquarters in Washington, D.C., based on what is believed to be a representative sample of specific areas, she said.

“;They don't target individual people,”; Fitzgerald said. Instead, an area is targeted, then addresses are chosen randomly to “;represent all communities in the U.S.”;

Those selected would receive advance notice via a letter. Sometimes a letter “;may go astray,”; Fitzgerald said, but generally, a letter is sent, followed a few days later by a visit from a Census Bureau field representative.

Interviewers carry a Census Bureau badge. If you still have qualms, Fitzgerald said you can call her office (the number given) to verify the actual interviewer.

The Census Bureau is basically the subcontractor, collecting the data on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control.

“;The field representative is expected to make more than one attempt (at contacting occupants at an address) because people may be too busy or want to check if (the survey is) legitimate before they start answering any questions,”; Fitzgerald explained.

She acknowledged that 8:30 p.m. “;does seem kind of late,”; but said that may be because it was difficult to reach you during the day.

If no convenient time can be found for an interview, phone interviews can be arranged, Fitzgerald said. Interviews take at least 40 minutes, depending on the number of people in a family.

The health survey, conducted for more than 50 years, covers doctor's visits, medical conditions, health insurance, physical activities, injuries, immunizations, etc., as well as demographic questions about race and income.

The “;raw results”; are forwarded to the CDC, excluding the names of those interviewed.

“;The information is gathered by the CDC so that they can properly allocate their medical research budget,”; Fitzgerald said.

For more information, see hsblinks.com/161.



The Aikahi Playground, forced to close in May because of safety concerns (see hsblinks.com/162), will celebrate a grand reopening tomorrow afternoon.

Among several local businesses, plus the Navy, that donated services or materials to help make the playground safe was Watts Construction, which volunteered workers and construction equipment.


Write to “;Kokua Line”; at Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).