To Boost Bellevue Residents' Response to Public Health Surveys, UB Researchers Sponsor Educational Sessions

Release Date: April 14, 2004 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- For years, residents living in the Bellevue section of Cheektowaga have wondered if something in their environment contributes to an increased incidence of disease in their neighborhood.

University at Buffalo researchers, working with the New York State Department of Health, hope finally to be able to answer that question by year's end, but first they say they need more residents to fill out and return to them important 10-page surveys.

Residents who have not yet completed the surveys will have a chance to get new copies, fill them out and ask questions of the survey's coordinators from noon to 5 p.m. on April 17, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 18, and noon to 5 p.m. on April 24 in the auditorium of the Resurrection Church, 130 Como Park Blvd., Cheektowaga.

"We're at a critical final phase now in conducting this health study," said Joseph Gardella, Ph.D., professor of chemistry and associate dean in the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences, who is the principal investigator on the survey project.

"It is vital that as many residents as possible respond to the public health survey," he said.

Residents of the neighborhood, located near three landfills and a stone quarry, have been concerned about what they believe is a high incidence of autoimmune and respiratory diseases due to environmental hazards.

While previous studies conducted by the state health department in ZIP codes that include the neighborhood were inconclusive, residents have continued to call for additional, more geographically specific studies.

"Because this UB study was designed with major input from the community, it can best respond to the residents' concerns," said Gardella.

The UB survey, he added, will be valid only if at least 30-40 percent of the residents respond.

"The number of responses received so far has been insufficient," said Christine Brinkhus, a doctoral candidate in the UB Department of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, who is the public participation specialist on the project.

The effort was kicked off last summer with an intensive door-to-door effort in the neighborhood, where UB students and researchers hand-delivered surveys to residents and informed them about the importance of responding, she said.

According to Brinkhus, more than 6,000 surveys have been delivered or mailed: 3,000 to residents in the affected community and 3,000 to those in an adjacent community that is serving as the control population.

"The survey is 10 pages long, and we know it takes a substantial amount of time and thought to answer it," said Gardella, "but frankly, responding to the survey is the only way that the community will be able to have closure, to find out once and for all if further study is needed because something in their environment is making them and their loved ones sick."

Both Gardella and Brinkhus will be present at all the survey sessions to answer questions and to provide information.

Donna Hosmer, president of the Cheektowaga Citizens' Coalition and other volunteers from the group, also will be present.

The confidentiality of participants and the privacy of health information will be maintained and community members will not have access to the surveys or to the data concerning individuals or households.

The study protocol was written by the New York State Department of Health with input from UB, the Cheektowaga Citizens' Coalition and the Erie County Department of Health. Data collection, management and analysis will be organized by UB.

The draft summary report will be written jointly by UB and the state health department, and will be circulated among members of the community and other interested parties before being finalized.

For more information about the survey itself or the survey sessions, please contact, Christine Brinkhus, UB project coordinator at 400-2653 or or Joseph Gardella, the UB principal investigator, at 863-4672 or

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