Published On: December 09, 2021

How the California Health Interview Survey adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic 

CHIS researchers outline how survey methods were modified to meet the demand for timely data and making data available prior to annual release  ​

Media Contact:
UCLA CHPR Communications Team

​How was the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) team able to release early data for the first time in the survey’s history? An article published yesterday by the American Journal of Public Health looks at how CHIS was able to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic by releasing timely data on how Californians navigated the pandemic’s conditions and challenges.

As a large, well-established statewide population survey, CHIS researchers released early data from the 2020 survey through the CHIS COVID-19 Preliminary COVID-19 Estimates Dashboard beginning in September 2020. These included questions in a COVID-19 module that began in May 2020. The team finalized the module in April 2020 and included indicators on COVID-19 concerns, testing, and diagnoses, as well as financial and social impacts of the pandemic and personal acceptance of the vaccine.

Decades of survey collection, the survey’s redesign in 2019 to dual-mode administration by web or telephone and stakeholder engagement were the main contributing factors as to how CHIS successfully adapted to the pandemic and produced timely data related to Californians’ response to the pandemic.

“As the pandemic glaringly exposed inequities across sociodemographic groups in health access and outcomes across the state and nationwide, our goal was to provide timely, equity-focused data in a more rapid processing timeframe to meet the demand for insights needed during this unprecedented time,” said Ninez A. Ponce, PhD, MPP, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research director and CHIS principal investigator.

With the support of CHIS’ data partner, SSRS, and questions from COVID-19 surveys conducted by agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers were able to report preliminary monthly estimates from methods that typically support annual data metrics. Authors note that challenges did occur in that samples may not have been representative of certain geographic areas or demographic groups due to response rates within certain areas or groups, inability to compare data on a month-to-month basis, and statistical instability of some of the data estimates.

Overall, CHIS successfully demonstrated the possibility of releasing data from the annual survey in rapid time and the ability to respond to a crisis by providing crucial, actionable data to various stakeholders, such as policymakers, program managers, community health workers, and the general public, to help identify residents most impacted by the pandemic. Beginning July 2021, CHIS began releasing preliminary COVID-19 data from the 2021 survey.

“By looking at various factors in risk-reduction behaviors, vaccine views, and personal and financial impacts, CHIS will continue to help tell the story of how Californians navigated their way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Todd Hughes, CHIS director.

Published by the American Public Health Association, the American Journal of Public Health is the preeminent peer-reviewed public health journal aimed at advancing public health research, policy, practice, and education.