Saturday, 21 August 2010


Surveys are great things! Pick the right group of people and you are almost guaranteed to get the required outcome. If you don't then it can be filed in the forgotten drawer.

The UK's Faculty of Public Health published the modified results of a survey yesterday entitled: Healthy Nudges - When the Public Wants Change and the Politicians Don't Know It. A summary can be found HERE and you can click onto the full survey at the bottom of the FPH page.

I have no problem with the content of the survey, but I do wonder about the make up of the participants. Yes, there appears to be a fair representation of social grades - but was there a fair representation of smokers and drinkers? If not, the outcome of the survey is skewed.

Furthermore, the classifications of social grades was devised decades ago and now fails to reflect how society has changed.

The sample size was 1,488 GB adults, yet this small sample of an estimated UK population of 61,792,000 in mid-2009 has been seen as large enough for FPH to declare that politicians don't know what the public wants.

If this survey had been a clinical trial it would stretch to four phases. Would it not have been fairer to perhaps conduct four surveys - ensuring a true representation of smokers and drinkers - and then done a meta-analysis on all?

As said, no problem with the outcomes of the survey, bar the opt-out system for organ donation - but I think it is rather bold of the FPH to suggest that the survey is a true representation of what the public thinks!



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