4727.0.55.002 - Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2012-13  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/11/2013  First Issue
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Contents >> Survey Design and Operation >> Measures to maximise response


In any sample survey, responses should ideally be obtained from all selected units, however there will always be some non-response, when people refuse to cooperate, cannot be contacted, or are contacted but cannot be interviewed. It is important that response be maximised in order to reduce sampling variability and avoid biases. Sampling variability is increased when the sample size decreases, and biases can arise if the people who fail to respond to the survey have different characteristics from those who did respond.

The ABS sought the willing cooperation of selected households in the 2012-13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NATSINPAS). Measures taken to encourage respondent cooperation and maximise response included:

  • Stressing the importance of the survey to the planning and provision of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services and facilities to meet Australia's health needs.
  • Stressing the importance of participation in the survey by selected households and residents, explaining that they represented a number of other households, both geographically and demographically; i.e. that their household represented other households that were similar in size, composition and location, and that they themselves represented other people with similar occupations, lifestyles and health characteristics. The cooperation of those selected was important to ensure all households/persons were properly represented in the survey and properly reflected in survey results.
  • Stressing the confidentiality of all information collected. The confidentiality of data is guaranteed by the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the provisions of this Act, the ABS is prevented from releasing any identifiable information about individuals or households to any person, organisation or government authority.

Through call-backs and follow-up at selected dwellings, every effort was made to contact the occupants of each selected dwelling and to conduct the survey in those dwellings. Call-backs occurred at different times during the day to increase the chance of contact. Once contacts had been made at a dwelling the interviewer completed all necessary questionnaires where possible. If any persons who were selected to be included in the survey were absent from the dwelling when the interviewer called, arrangements were made to return and interview them. Interviewers made return visits as necessary in order to complete questionnaires for selected persons in scope of the survey. In some cases, the selected adult(s) or designated child proxy within a dwelling could not be contacted or interviewed, and these were classified as individual non-contacts.

In non-community cases where a respondent initially refused to participate in the survey, a follow-up letter was sent to the respondent and a second visit was made where possible. The follow-up visits explained the aims and importance of the survey and addressed any particular concerns the respondent may have had.

The collection methodology used in remote communities was adapted to be culturally appropriate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons living in these areas. However, the ABS was conscious not to change the collection methodology to the extent that data collected in communities would not be comparable with that collected in previous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health surveys. In communities, interviewers carried out any call-back interviews whilst they were at the community. The special measures used in communities for interviews, including the use of 'teams' of one male and one female interviewer and the use of local facilitators are outlined in Data Collection under 'Interviews'.

In communities there was no follow-up of refusals. Interviewers were instructed to make every effort to discourage refusals at the initial contact stage by explaining, with the assistance of a local facilitator, the importance of the survey and the confidentiality provisions under which the ABS operates. If there was a high non-response in a community due to some event occurring, such as a funeral, interviewing in that community was postponed to a more appropriate time.

Procedures were also undertaken to maximise the response rate for the voluntary biomedical component. In the first instance, interviewers highlighted the major personal and wider community benefits to the respondent. These benefits included:
  • receiving personal, comprehensive information about their health
  • identifying areas of need in the community
  • providing long term health benefits to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, through a better understanding of how our lifestyles and diets impact on our health.

Interviewers were further trained to provide responses to a range of questions, as well as to direct respondents to the Frequently Asked Questions page on the ABS website. In addition, an 1800 information line specific to the biomedical collection was available during business hours for any non-remote related queries.

A follow-up reminder process in the form of letters and phone calls was implemented at least ten days following the interview for NATSIHS non-remote respondents who consented to the voluntary biomedical component but had not attended a pathology collection clinic. In the NATSINPAS, for non-remote respondents participating in the second (CATI) interview, interviewers took the opportunity to remind respondents who had expressed an interest in participating in the biomedical component about attending a collection centre to provide samples. Following the second interview, or for those non-remote respondents who were not participating in the CATI, the same procedures used in NATSIHS were followed.

Additionally, home visits and temporary clinics were offered to participants in certain circumstances to maximise participation rates, particularly in remote areas and for those who were incapacitated.

So as not to be out of pocket for travel, child-care, or time off work, biomedical participants were able to claim a $50 reimbursement.

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