A comparison of mail, telephone, and home interview strategies for household health surveys

Am J Public Health. 1979 Mar;69(3):238-45. doi: 10.2105/ajph.69.3.238.


The method of data collection in household health surveys can be a major determinant of cost and data quality. A survey strategy can comprise mail, telephone, or home interview methods, individually or in combination to follow up non-respondents. The purpose of this study in Montreal was to compare cost and data quality of various strategies. Strategies which began with mail or telephone contact, followed by the two other methods, provided response rates as high as a home interview strategy (all between 80 and 90 per cent), for one-half the cost of home interviews when used as the sole method. The telephone response rate was higher than the mail response rate. Comparing different follow-up approaches to strategies beginning with mail or telephone, it proved less costly, and equally effective, to use home interviewing as a last resort for persistent non-respondents. Validity of response (comparing individual responses with records of a government health insurance data bank) and willingness to answer sensitive questions were greatest in mail strategy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Canada
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Postal Service*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone*