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VISN 2 Center for Suicide Prevention

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Informatics

Survey Center

Data Analytics and Informatics within the Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention encompasses the integration of computing, programming, information science, and statistical analysis within broad fields that intersect with VA suicide prevention efforts in an innovative fashion, including:

     Public Health Science
     Epidemiology
     Mental Health
     Communications
     Biostatistics
     Translational Science

Mission:
Provide timely, relevant consultation in the areas of informatics, analytics, and data management to further VA suicide prevention strategies and policies.

Affiliation:
The CoE is academically affiliated with the University of Rochester. The integration of the CoE Informatics core and the University of Rochester, Department of Psychiatry, Division of Psychiatric Statistics promotes innovative biostatistics collaborations and data coordinating services. Since the inception of the CoE, this group has developed strengths on a range of topics in biostatistics that are of particular importance and pertinence to research on suicide prevention and intervention, such as causal inference, mediation analysis, data mining methodology and social network analysis.

Aims:
Be an expert within the VHA for suicide prevention efforts in informatics areas, including:
     Health Science Research
     Population-Level Research
     Survey Design
     Study Feasibility
     Suicidal Data Sources
     Statistical Methods

Create and evaluate novel strategies and tools to assist VHA suicide prevention efforts.

Improve analytic processes by utilizing advances in VA health systems.

Establish information infrastructure to maximize collaboration by creating standardized documentation structures, programming standards, and analytic processes.

The CoE Survey Center was developed to assist the CoE, as well as other VA researchers and program officials in conducting surveys and gathering information from Veterans by mail or phone for on-going research and evaluation programs. The Survey Center also provides a means for Veterans to call into to provide information for long and short term quality improvement and research projects.

The Survey Center was created in 2009 to fulfill the need of gathering information on suicide relating to Veterans. With the important task of surveying Veterans to access suicide risk, a fully staffed on-site call center equipped with phones, computers and individual private calling stations was established. Highly trained Health Technicians interact with Veterans with care and empathy when discussing subjects that can often be personal and emotional. Some surveys have dealt with PTSD, severe pain and substance abuse.

Capable of both receiving and placing calls depending on the project, the Call Center currently handles upwards of 3000 unique inbound calls with Veterans per month.

One project currently getting underway in the Survey Center supports the CoE study Evaluation of the VA’s Communication and Outreach Activities. This study examines VA Mental Health Services’ public communication campaigns.  The aim of the study is to understand the impact of television, radio, online and print marketing on attitudes and social norms that promote help-seeking actions and suicide prevention. Staff at the Survey Center manages the recruitment of Veteran participants, collects data, and ensures that all study procedures adhere to VA policy and project protocol.

While the first responsibility of the Survey Center is to support the work of the CoE the model has proven valuable and efficient. As a result, the services of the Survey Center are sought after by other VA research and evaluation programs. For example, currently the Survey Center is partnering with VA Office of Research & Development to facilitate surveys for the Million Veteran Program (MVP).

MVP is gathering genetic information from one million Veterans in order to better understand how genes influence disease and to then develop treatments for health issues that affect Veterans such as heart disease, diabetes and PTSD. To date MVP has enrolled more than 250,000 Veteran research participants and the Survey Center plays the integral role of front line communicator with the Veterans. More information about MVP is available at the followiing link: http://www.research.va.gov/MVP/

Gathering information remains a crucial link in research and the CoE Survey Center is an example of quality service for Veterans.