• Presentation

Redesigning Contact Materials for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health


Currivan, D., Kennet, J., Painter, D., & Peytcheva, E. (2011, May). Redesigning Contact Materials for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Presented at AAPOR 2011, Phoenix, AZ.


Designing survey contact materials presents a challenge for survey practitioners to determine the content and features most likely to encourage participation among recipients. For general household surveys, limited research exists to inform decisions on whether specific text and graphics in the contact materials are likely to be effective in facilitating cooperation and avoiding refusals. As a result, designing contact materials requires survey researchers to combine relevant data, knowledge, and experience to construct effective documents.

This paper will summarize recent efforts to redesign the primary contact materials for the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). The NSDUH provides national, state, and substate data on substance use and mental health in the civilian, non-institutionalized population age 12 and older. Data are collected on a quarterly basis each year, with approximately 140,000 household screenings and 67,500 interviews completed annually.

Three methods were used in redesigning the advance letter envelope, the advance letter, and the question and answer (Q&A) brochure for the NSDUH. First, the researchers developed alternative versions for each of these contact materials to address potential limitations of the current materials. Second, we submitted the current and alternative versions of the contact materials for expert review and feedback. Third, we conducted 17 focus groups with members of the target population in different parts of the United States to discuss participants’ reactions to the different versions of the materials.

This study will identify contributions each of the three methods made toward determining the final text and graphics for each of the three types of contact materials. We will also highlight important themes that emerged from this research, especially from the focus groups. Based on these research findings, we will discuss how various content and feature elements in contact materials are likely to facilitate cooperation in household surveys in the United States.