Common Ground Health aimed to reach an even more diverse population with its My Health Story 2022 Survey—and in the process created its most inclusive version yet.

The survey encourages residents in the nine-county region to share their health stories, especially in under-resourced communities where individuals often are left out of efforts to understand barriers to public health services.

“Common Ground Health wants to promote health equity for all, and part of that is gathering stories from as many different types of people—in as many ways as they identify—as we can,” says Dr. Sarah Farash, a senior research associate at the agency.

Information was gathered with help from the Empire Justice Center and the Monroe County Language Access Coalition, which works with community members with limited English language proficiency in communication and reading skills.

"At its core, My Health Story is public health surveillance,” Dr. Farash adds, “so part of that is expanding what we mean when we say ‘public.’ This year we critically thought about that with our partners and realized it would be great to add questions that would include more intersectionality.”

Along with gathering details about veteran status, for example, questions asked people for information on housing changes, as well as sexual and gender identity, in more comprehensive ways.

New questions explored the pandemic’s effect on children and mental health, and more open-ended questions in general allowed respondents to share their experiences in their own words.

More than 3,700 people took part in the survey, completed over a five-month period. Fifty-four percent were White/Non-Latino, 28 percent were Black/Non-Latino, 12 percent were Latino, 3 percent wrote in additional racial identities, and 3 percent preferred not to say. Indigenous community members were given the opportunity to share the name of their tribe.

Among the findings on topics entirely new to the survey:

  • 25 percent are caregivers of children under 18
  • 25 percent moved at least once in the past 3 years, and of those, 42.5 percent moved two or more times
  • 6 percent were born outside the U.S.

And among the respondents:

  • 72 percent were female and 28 percent were male
  • Most had at least a bachelor’s degree
  • 29 percent were between ages 50 and 64; ages 35 to 49 and 18 to 34 each had a responsiveness rate of 22 percent; and the rest were age 65 and older

An additional way to help respondents feel more seen was by expanding the survey format. In addition to English and Spanish versions, the survey was offered in a text-to-speech format in both languages—ideal for individuals with lower reading levels or a visual impairment. Another version featured American Sign Language translation videos of each question.

The next step is to look closely at the open- and closed-ended survey answers with community members and stakeholders. The My Health Story team has already presented some preliminary data to Livingston and Chemung counties' public health departments. Additional county presentations are scheduled for the coming weeks. A public-facing information session will be scheduled in the near future.

“We’re looking forward to doing that,” says Dr. Farash, “so hopefully we can inspire some actionable change to improve the lives of people in our region.”