Researcher Receives $382K Grant to
Measure Cell Phone Impact
on Health Surveys
Research targets tobacco use and other health behaviors
NEW BRUNSWICK — A researcher at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health has received a two-year, $382,093 grant from the National Cancer Institute to determine if there are flaws in the accuracy of surveys that are frequently used to assess tobacco consumption. These surveys, which provide essential data for individual state tobacco control programs throughout the United States, often overlook the fact people are increasingly doing away with their landline phones and relying solely on cell phones.
“In recent years, the proportion of adults who live in cell-phone-only households has increased by more than 300 percent,” said Dr. Cristine Delnevo, an associate professor at the UMDNJ-School of Public Health and the principal investigator of the study. "But, most state tobacco control programs still rely heavily on random digit dialing telephone surveys that traditionally include only household landline numbers. In fact, some important demographic groups, such as young adults, males and minorities, tend to live in cell-phone-only households and also to have higher smoking rates. From an evaluation perspective, this is especially troubling. The effect of cell-phone-only households could mask or exaggerate real variations in smoking prevalence.”
Dr. Delnevo’s research has three specific aims: explore the feasibility of cell-phone-only health surveys; compare the health behaviors (tobacco and alcohol use, exercise and nutrition) of individuals surveyed via cell phone and landline telephones; and develop statistical techniques to accurately combine cell phone and landline health survey data. Because the southern region of the country has the highest wireless substitution rate in the country, Dr. Delnevo’s study will initially focus on three southern states (Florida, Tennessee and Texas).
“The potential of this research goes far beyond evaluating tobacco control programs,” Dr. Delnevo said. “We’ll be looking at other health behaviors as well. Determining the impact of cell-phone-only households could have significant implications on the validity of other types of research, including epidemiological research and public opinion polls.”
To request an interview with Dr. Delnevo, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.