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DOH wants to know more about people’s food habits

The state Department of Health is rolling out a statewide survey to learn more about food habits of residents and visitors, and find out if there are any behaviors associated with possible risks for foodborne illnesses, including rat lungworm disease.

Beginning this week, the official survey will be mailed at random to households throughout the state.

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The survey will include questions about what residents like to eat, where foods are purchased or grown, where water resources come from and how foods are prepared.

Data gathered will be used to inform best practices for food safety, guide public health intervention and prevention strategies and enhance understanding of the risk for foodborne disease among residents and visitors.

Those who receive the paper-based survey also will be offered the option to submit responses online. Further instructions will be included in the hard-copy packets provided to recipients through the mail.

This particular survey on food consumption will not use phone or email to contact residents.

The department aims to collect 3,772 survey responses to gather a complete picture representative of households in the state. Those who receive a mailed survey are encouraged to complete it in full and return responses promptly in the included postage-paid envelope.

“We strongly urge residents and visitors who receive this survey in the mail to promptly fill it out,” said state epidemiologist Sarah Park. “The more data we have to understand the average food consumption habits of people in Hawaii, the better equipped our team will be to respond quickly to identify implicated foods and respond faster to mitigate further spread of disease.”

The data gathered will be used to analyze potential risk behaviors related to rat lungworm disease, such as specific food-item consumption; exposure to rats, slugs and snails in the area surrounding a survey respondent’s home; food preparation habits; water sources; and eating habits outside the home.

“We know that most people get sick with angiostrongyliasis (rat lungworm) from eating infected slugs and snails, but we often have a hard time pinpointing exactly how they came to consume the infected mollusks,” Park said. “This survey will allow us to determine if certain behaviors or conditions may result in greater susceptibility than others to rat lungworm disease.”

The DOH contracted Anthology Marketing Group in Honolulu to administer the survey. All responses will be anonymous.

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If residents want to confirm the validity of the survey received by mail, contact the DOH or Anthology Marketing Group using the phone numbers and/or email addresses provided in the instructions included in each survey packet.

Participation in this survey is voluntary.