Courtesy of Professor Peter Enns

Databases | Prof. Enns hopes the Roper Center will drive health care related policies.

November 12, 2018

Roper Center To Develop a New, Far-Reaching Health Opinion Database

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Cornell’s Roper Center for Public Opinion Research is working to create a health opinion database in order to provide accessible information to professionals, media groups and the public about health and public opinion over time.

The project, which will take approximately three and a half years to complete, received its grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national health-related philanthropy, in early October. Prof. Peter Enns, government, executive director of the Roper Center and Carolyn Miller, the senior program officer in research-evaluation-learning at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, are leading the project.

According to Enns, the project will supplement the Roper Center’s current database, which offers information from more than 700,000 national surveys dating back to the 1930s, many of which are health-related.

“The database will bring additional health surveys into this collection and will enhance the findability and analysis tools on the health collection to allow users to locate data easily, look at results by demographic subgroups, track changes in results over time, and learn about the larger context for the question topics,” Enns said.

The database will consist of questions concerning health and determinants of health over time, providing public opinion on topics such as health care costs, causes of cancer, beliefs about mental health treatment, perceptions about the affordable care act, discrimination in medical care and other health-related topics.

Enns explained that the database’s accommodation of past surveys will also supply a historical perspective that will help contextualize current health concepts and problems. Questions aimed at assessing the evolution of health opinion over time will focus on a wide range of topics, including those about Medicare, the stigmatization of disability, and the new polio vaccine.

“This database will be a resource for anyone interested in understanding and improving public health,” said Enns. “With nearly one in 10 employed Americans working in the health care sector, there is likely to be a high level of interest in understanding the issues this database addresses.”Additionally, the general public and people interested in health-related policy will be able to use the database to better understand public opinion surrounding health and healthcare.

The database will be unique in that it caters to a broad audience, including health professionals, policymakers, academics, and the American public. That feature of the project, however, also creates challenges for the researchers. Enns elaborated on this, saying that it will be difficult to create the database in a way that appropriately speaks to both healthcare professionals and non-professionals.

“Many research resources that are primarily aimed at academics do not provide the context nor the plain language guidance necessary to make the information useful to a broader audience,” said Enns. “But we believe successfully bridging that gap will make this database uniquely important.”

Enns talked about how the database can be used to potentially drive healthcare-related policies and educate the general population.

“Understanding public attitudes, behaviors, and knowledge about health and health care is essential for health communications and policymaking,” Enns said. “Health issues affect everyone – this project is intended to make understanding the public’s views on health issues easier for all.”