Survey and Evaluation Research

The Survey and Evaluation Research unit is directed by Siobhan Power and Chris Wyce. They are assisted by three full-time staff and a team of part-time research assistants. This Unit provides study and sample design consultation; designs questionnaires and cost-effective data collection strategies; manages data collection efforts; analyzes primary and secondary data; develops weighting and imputation strategies; collects and analyzes geographic information; and prepares reports and presentation. They have designed and implemented process and outcome evaluations, as well as data collection initiatives, in collaboration with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services, New Jersey Division of Probation and Parole, New York City Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and a variety of non-profit organizations.

The BCSR has a long history of working with government and non-profit agencies to evaluate the impacts of new policies and programs targeted to address social needs. Our staff has conducted quasi-experimental studies, as well as randomized controlled trials to explore both the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of newly implemented programs or policies by state agencies. When control groups are not feasible, we design pre-post studies that explore trend changes in key outcomes over time. Depending on the research questions, a single method, an appropriately scaled online survey, or a mixed methods approach, combining focus groups or expert interviews with a large-scale survey, may be recommended. Evaluation studies are designed and implemented in ways that meet the needs and budgets of our clients.

The BCSR staff has evaluated response and recovery efforts directly related to Superstorm Sandy; a public health initiative designed to improve population health and reduce health disparities among high-need women of child-bearing age; a specialized probation unit for probationers with mental illnesses; an integrated trauma and addiction program for incarcerated men and women; a newborn home visiting program for at-risk women; and provides expertise to develop, implement, and support three statewide monitoring systems: substance use (NJSAMS), intoxicated drivers (IDR), and birth defects and autism (BD/ARS), all of which have sophisticated web -based applications that are housed and supported on virtual networks at Rutgers.

The modality used to collect data matters. Research shows that people may be reluctant to provide accurate information about certain behaviors (e.g., drinking, smoking, drug use) or health problems (e.g., HIV, mental illness, substance abuse). How people are asked questions about personal behaviors and problems can influence the quality of the information collected. Dr. Wolff has conducted and published research on the reliability and validity of survey delivery methods. She works with clients to customize questionnaires and survey delivery methods in ways that are sensitive to the nature of the information needed and the privacy concerns of people volunteering information. Issues of confidentiality and privacy require careful consideration in designing a cost-effective survey strategy.

Samples of Projects

Postpartum Assessment of Health Survey (PAHS). The BCSR served as the data collector for six study sites for this interdisciplinary research project at Columbia University. The PAHS collected data on the health and wellbeing from postpartum individuals one year after giving birth. Survey topics included: physical and mental health, health care use and social determinants of health.

Evaluate the New Jersey Sandy Behavioral Health Screening Project. This project identifies the mental health and treatment services received by individuals experiencing behavior health symptoms associated with exposure to Superstorm Sandy. The project was designed to integrate mental and substance abuse screenings, brief interventions, and referrals in ambulatory and emergency room health care settings in storm-affected areas throughout New Jersey. The BCSR evaluation assessed both factors affecting project implementation and project screening outcomes.  We also monitored the implementation of the project across the 11 agencies throughout the project-funding period.

Evaluate the Improved Pregnancy Outcome Initiative. The overarching goal of this initiative is to reduce racial, ethnic, and economic disparities in maternal and infant outcomes by prioritizing those with the greatest need: high-need women of childbearing age and their families. It involves an outreach effort to identify women in need and a county-based central intake centers that streamline the process of standardized assessment and service referral. The BCSR conducted a process and outcome evaluation of the implementation of the screening and referral protocols.

Evaluation Research