Surveying Communities to Establish Norms
Steve Cambron, Community Prevention Planning Specialist of the Kentucky Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention Program, wanted to know certain community's norms regarding substance abuse among youth in that community. Did community members in a given community think it was acceptable for youth under the legal drinking age of 21 to consume alcohol if they have a guardian's consent? Are there communities so heavily influenced by tobacco growing that the citizens are tolerant of indoor smoking and not as acceptable of clean indoor air policies? Information in the Community Tool Box at the University of Kansas has been useful support in developing a Community Norms web site to help communities specifically answer these questions.
Each of the answers to these questions varies depending on the community, its members, its background and many other demographic and psychographic characteristics. Cambron and others in the Department of Public Health Substance Abuse Prevention Program, Regional Prevention Centers and Prevention Enhancement Sites decided that in order to measure community norms effectively, each community should have the resources to gather their own community norms data.
"The goal in mind when developing the Community Norms web site was to enable communities to get their own community norms data and gather it through surveys that they create themselves," Cambron said. "This way communities can gather adult perceptions and attitudes regarding substance abuse.”
The Community Norms web site is a series of question banks that allow local boards and prevention groups to create their own surveys addressing alcohol and tobacco issues. "We decided to focus on alcohol and tobacco areas because those are the issues communities wanted to address when we did a needs assessment," Cambron said. (For Community Tool Box information on needs assessments, see Chapter 3, Section 7: Conducting Needs Assessment Surveys.)
In the past, communities that have thought of using evaluations to gain insights from their community members have had to contract consultants, who can be very expensive, Cambron said. "The instruments were not in the public domain and we wanted to get instruments available to communities and help out with their creation and implementation of surveys," he added. The Community Tool Box offers several sections under Chapter 3: Assessing Community Needs and Resources that help communities gain insight to the beliefs and norms of community members. Upon creating this manual and web site for the Community Norms Tool Box, the taskforce gathered content from other survey instruments, as well as information about what questions and issues should be included in a survey. Cambron used information from Chapter 3: Assessing Community Needs and Resources in the Community Tool Box for helpful pointers.
"The information on the Community Tool Box regarding mailing surveys and conducting interviews is very concise and to the point," Cambron said. Tips regarding direct mail and bulk mail that can be found on the Community Tool Box in Chapter 3, Section 13: Conducting Surveys and information on interview types and methods can be found in Chapter 3, Section 12: Conducting Interviews.
Chapter 3, Section 13 Conducting Surveys of the Community Tool Box also includes Don Dillman's Total Design Method. The Total Design Method is an eight-step process that has been shown to yield an average survey return rate of 73 percent, more than 40 percent better than the common response rate. "Helpful pointers from the Total Design Method, like using colorful stamps and cover letters, really can bring a greater response," Cambron said.
While Cambron and the Community Norms web site taskforce continue to improve the Community Norms manual, as well as develop the web site containing question banks for varying community surveys, they hold high expectations for data that can come from the use of this resource.
"We expect that prevention groups can get enough data and results from the survey to do one of two things," Cambron said. "First, they can put together a survey and find that there is enough support in the community to create a policy."
"On the other hand," Cambron said, "survey results could show that there is not yet enough support for a desired policy. The community that used that survey would need to lay the groundwork that would create readiness and awareness of a situation, and then encourage support of a policy to change things."
Currently, one community, the Heartland Trail KY-ASAP local board, is piloting the Community Norms manual. Although the manual or the web site has not been released to the public yet, there are three other communities looking at the material in the manual and preparing for work in their own communities. For Community Toolbox information regarding support for community health issues, see Chapter 4, Section 3: Gathering Public Support for Addressing Community Health and Development Issues.
The taskforce is also planning on tracking those communities who utilize the resources of the Community Norms web site, as well as making it available to everyone who would like to use it. "We plan to keep track of who is using the web site, i.e. what communities and what part of the state," Cambron said. For Community Toolbox information on how to monitor the progress of an initiative, see Chapter 38, Section 2: Gathering Information: Monitoring Your Progress.
"We also want to make it available not only in Kentucky, but for everyone. That way, people can come and build their own surveys using our question banks." Cambron added that other substance abuse web sites have been in contact with the Community Norms Tool Box in order to add the web site it as a link to their own organizations web site. Several sections in the Community Toolbox offer insight on how to market an initiative and reach those who can utilize a program, such as the Community Norms Tool Box, in their community. These sections include:
With real-world experience and implementation, Cambron and the rest of the taskforce will be able to add more relevant questions and issues and will prepare to establish community norms in developing substance abuse and concerns areas.
Related Community Tool Box Materials: Taking Action Stories
Chapter 3: Assessing Community Needs and Resources
Chapter 3, Section 2 Understanding and Describing the Community
Chapter 3, Section 4: Collecting Information about the Problem
Chapter 3, Section 5: Analyzing Community Problems
Chapter 3, Section 13: Conducting Surveys
Chapter 3, Section 12: Conducting Interviews.
Chapter 4, Section 3: Gathering Public Support for Addressing Community Health and Development Issues.
Chapter 6, Section1: Developing a Plan for Communication
Chapter 6, Section 16: Creating a Web site
Chapter 38, Section 2: Gathering Information: Monitoring Your Progress.
Chapter 45, Section 5: Promoting Awareness and Interest through Communication