Health survey needs respondents

A survey that could help reduce health risks here launched by the Health Services Authority in April has not yet received the needed number of responses.

Dr. Laurence van Hanswijck

Dr. Laurence van Hanswijck de Jonge is urging residents to complete a health survey aimed at identifying disease prevalence and risk factors in the Cayman Islands.
Photo: File

The research coordinator for the project, Dr. Laurence van Hanswijck de Jonge, said only about 800 people responded to the survey so far.

‘It’s going quite slowly,’ she said. ‘We want to try to get at least 6,000 [responses].’

The survey, which takes between 10 and 15 minutes to complete, asks a wide range of questions in hopes of identifying disease prevalence and risk factors in the Cayman Islands. The survey takes into account the many demographic differences of people here.

‘We’re aiming at the residents,’ said Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge, adding that she encourages Caymanians and ex-pats to take the survey.

‘It doesn’t matter if the people taking the survey [leave the island],’ she said.

The results of the survey with an adequate number of responses will allow the HSA to establish a baseline for disease prevalence and risk factors for residents in the Cayman Islands.

‘Establishing a baseline [in other ways] is very hard to do because many people go off island when they need to get any significant medical treatment,’ Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge said.

As a result, the HSA has no real way of knowing how many people have actually have certain medical conditions, which could be a result of specific risk factors.

If it can be determined that there is high prevalence of a specific medical condition or a high incidence of exposure to a specific known risk factor, the HSA could target that risk factor in its health campaigns, Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge said.

‘For instance, if there’s a huge amount of fast food consumption, we can target that,’ she said.

Respondents, who are not asked to give their names, are asked to answer the questions as honestly as possible.

Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge said the results of the survey are completely anonymous and untraceable.

‘We ask for no specific, identifiable information,’ she said. ‘We’re looking at demographics. We’re not looking at any one [individual] per se.’

Questions on the survey ask about historical occurrences of medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and sexually transmitted diseases. It also asks about any family history of some of those conditions.

In addition, the survey probes eating and exercise habits, as well as the usage of tobacco and alcohol.

It is planned to run the survey every year initially, so that a more accurate baseline can be established.

Originally, it was hoped up to half of Cayman’s resident population would respond to the current survey, but Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge would settle for the minimum amount at this point.

Efforts are being made to get more responses over the next six weeks. All Caribbean Utilities Company customers received a flyer in their most recent electric bills asking them to log onto to take the survey online.

There is also a plan to have hard copies of the survey placed at the supermarkets near a drop box so that people who do not have access to a computer can take the survey.

Dr. van Hanswijck de Jonge said she cannot continue running the survey indefinitely to get the number of responses.

‘We are trying to get close to the 6,000 [needed number of responses] by the end of September,’ she said.

There is at least one compelling reason people should take the survey.

‘It can reduce health risks here,’ said Dr. van Hanswijck.

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