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Acceptability and adoption of handheld computer data collection for public health research in China: a case study

  • Author(s): Wan, Xia
  • Raymond, H
  • Wen, Tiancai
  • Ding, Ding
  • Wang, Qian
  • Shin, Sanghyuk S
  • Yang, Gonghuan
  • Chai, Wanxing
  • Zhang, Peng
  • Novotny, Thomas E
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract Background Handheld computers for data collection (HCDC) and management have become increasingly common in health research. However, current knowledge about the use of HCDC in health research in China is very limited. In this study, we administered a survey to a hard-to-reach population in China using HCDC and assessed the acceptability and adoption of HCDC in China. Methods Handheld computers operating Windows Mobile and Questionnaire Development Studio (QDS) software (Nova Research Company) were used for this survey. Questions on tobacco use and susceptibility were drawn from the Global Adult Tobacco Survey (GATS) and other validated instruments, and these were programmed in Chinese characters by local staff. We conducted a half-day training session for survey supervisors and a three-day training session for 20 interviewers and 9 supervisors. After the training, all trainees completed a self-assessment of their skill level using HCDC. The main study was implemented in fall 2010 in 10 sites, with data managed centrally in Beijing. Study interviewers completed a post-survey evaluation questionnaire on the acceptability and utility of HCDC in survey research. Results Twenty-nine trainees completed post-training surveys, and 20 interviewers completed post-data collection questionnaires. After training, more than 90% felt confident about their ability to collect survey data using HCDC, to transfer study data from a handheld computer to a laptop, and to encrypt the survey data file. After data collection, 80% of the interviewers thought data collection and management were easy and 60% of staff felt confident they could solve problems they might encounter. Overall, after data collection, nearly 70% of interviewers reported that they would prefer to use handheld computers for future surveys. More than half (55%) felt the HCDC was a particularly useful data collection tool for studies conducted in China. Conclusions We successfully conducted a health-related survey using HCDC. Using handheld computers for data collection was a feasible, acceptable, and preferred method by Chinese interviewers. Despite minor technical issues that occurred during data collection, HCDC is a promising methodology to be used in survey-based research in China.

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