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Researchers use interviews and observation to improve survey on Vietnam era Veterans' health

Agent Orange Newsletter: Information for Vietnam-era Veterans and their families.
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The 2017 Vietnam Era Health Retrospective Observational Study (VE-HEROeS) is a survey that compares the health and well-being of U.S. Vietnam Veterans to other U.S. Veterans who served elsewhere during the same time-period, as well as to similarly aged members of the U.S. public without military experience. For this study, researchers mailed two similar sets of questionnaires for participants to complete, one for Veterans and the other for members of the U.S. public. Surveys for this study were developed with qualitative research. This involves interviewing techniques and observation to gauge perceptions and interpretation of questionnaire items, and receptivity to completing the questionnaire for both Veterans and members of the public. Improvements to the questionnaires made after qualitative testing can improve question wording, recall, and overall response quality and quantity.

Researchers interviewed 20 participants ages 60 years or older about how well they understood the VE-HEROeS survey questions and survey process. By interviewing respondents using predefined questions and observing the Veterans as they completed survey questions, the researchers obtained feedback to help them improve the flow of the survey and to make the questions clearer and easier to understand and answer. The researchers also observed participants to see how they reacted to other study materials, including the study’s invitation letter.

This effort provided valuable information about how to improve the survey, especially for older Veterans, where issues related to survey-taking and recall of their war-related memories or other sensitive topics may come into play.

The scientific article, “Qualitative Interviewing: Testing Health Surveys Among Vietnam War Veterans at Age 70” describes in more detail how the researchers used qualitative research to improve the VE-HEROeS survey questionnaires. Read more about this article.

Researchers are now analyzing data from the completed surveys and writing additional scientific articles to share findings from VE-HEROeS. Learn more about VE-HEROeS and find updates.



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