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Evaluation of environmental health at public schools using a mailed survey

Maria Mirabelli, MPH and Steve Wing, PhD. Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB# 7435, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7435, 919-966-6652, Maria.Mirabelli@unc.edu

As follow-up to statewide school-based asthma survey, we conducted a mailed survey to collect information about environmental conditions of public school buildings.

In October 2003, we mailed pencil-and-paper style questionnaires to principals of 339 public schools in North Carolina. We asked principals to review the material and distribute surveys to four employees who might provide observations about environmental conditions in and around the school buildings. Each potential respondent was asked to complete and return a 4-page, 21-item survey.

Within 15 weeks of the initial mailing 746 respondents from 242 schools (71%) completed and returned surveys; one principal actively declined to participate. The school participation rate among schools with < 25% African-American enrollment was higher than that of remaining schools (75% (142/189) versus 67% (100/150), respectively); the rate declined with increasing total enrollment (£ 400: 78% (42/54); 401-600: 72% (80/111); 601-800: 71% (71/99); ³ 801: 65% (49/75)) and was higher among schools located in rural counties (75%, 176/235) compared to urban counties (63% (66/104)).

The frequency of non-response to closed-ended questions was low (<4%) among the 746 surveys returned. Ethical considerations led us to request anonymous survey responses and therefore limited our ability to use additional strategies to improve response from individual survey recipients. Despite this limitation, the high participation rate among surveyed schools and the low proportion of missing data from individual respondents suggest that a mailed survey is an efficient method for obtaining information about indoor and outdoor building environments from school faculty and staff.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Asthma and School Indoor Air Quality

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA