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Inventory of Resources Related to Health for Cities and Towns in Vermont
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Source: University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies
Description: This study was conducted by the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies (CRS), for the Vermont Department of Health (VDH). Funding for the study was from the Centers for Disease Control under cooperative agreement U58/CCU122788. CRS was selected to carryout this research through a competitive bidding process.
Introduction: The study methods were developed by CRS in collaboration with VDH with consultation from the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Vermont Regional Planning Commission. These study methods are described below and include the following: (1) study instrument; (2) study process, and (3) analysis and reporting.
Study Instrument The study instrument was designed to take an inventory of public resources in Vermont municipalities that support and promote public health. Therefore, the instrument focused primarily on public resources controlled by the municipal government. Private resources such as health clubs, trail networks controlled by private organizations, hospitals, and health clinics were not included in this study. There were two exceptions to the focus on public resources. First, Section II contained one question related to public/private collaboration to promote activity. Second, Section III included a question regarding the availability of privately owned stores that sell food products within the boundaries of the municipality.
The study instrument was designed through a collaborative effort by VDH staff and CRS. VDH experts in the field of public health, including nutrition and physical activity, developed a list of information that needed to be captured. From that list, CRS experts in survey design developed a draft of the empirical measures used in the instrument. Similar research that had been conducted in Massachusetts served as a starting point and guide (see Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 2002).
The draft survey instrument was previewed and pre-tested with a limited number of town clerks, regional planners, and other expert consultants in the fields of transportation and planning. A final draft of the survey instrument was reviewed and approved by a VDH Survey Review Committee.
Study Process: The study employed a cross-section study design, which means it was conducted at one period in time; however, the intention of VDH was to establish methods that would enable subsequent studies, thus allowing for a longitudinal study in the future.
The unit of analysis for this study was the municipal unit, which includes cities, towns, and incorporated villages. There are 246 cities and towns in Vermont. In addition, there are 41 incorporated villages, which are located within the geographic boundaries of various towns. The sampling frame, which is the operational definition of the study population, was provided by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns in the form of a list of municipal clerks, planners, public works administrators, and managers or select boards.
A census including all of Vermont's cities and towns was chosen over a sample. Taking a census was decided upon for two reasons. First, the purpose of the study, as set forth by VDH, suggested that including as many municipalities as possible was critical. Second, due to the relatively low number of municipal units in Vermont, a survey would have required almost all of the municipalities in the state to respond in order to achieve an acceptable margin of error.
The study instrument was administered through the mail as part of a study packet. Study packets were developed that included: (1) a cover letter; (2) the survey instrument; and (3) a self-addressed stamped envelope. In order to increase the response rate, a variation on Dillman's "Total Design Approach" (TDA) was used. TDA is a set of recommendations for maximizing mail responses by utilizing (1) specific survey design concepts and by (2) following a multi-step contact schedule. By following the contact schedule prescribed by Dillman, non-respondent municipalities were contacted at least three times by mail and twice by phone. In addition, a hotline was set-up to answer questions and provide background information on the study.
The initial survey instrument administration period went from July to September 2005; however, some municipalities did not respond until late-November. Responses were received from municipalities by mail, fax, email, and hand. The overall response rate was 93 percent.
The study instrument instructions indicated that the municipality could empower any individual or group of elected officials, staff people, or citizens-in-good-standing, to complete the study instrument. In cases where more than one official responded to the survey, if there were any discrepancies, the affirmative response was counted.Contact:
Suzanne Kelley, MSW
Physical Activity Coordinator
Vermont Department of Health
108 Cherry St., PO Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402
Last modified August 01 2013 01:32 PM