Master's Project Title:

SHAPE 2018: Data Collection and Processing for Hennepin County Human Service Centers (Executive Summary)

MCH Student:

Erica Nadler

Date of Defense:

October 5, 2018



SHAPE (Survey of Health of All the Population and Environment) is a population-based survey administered every four years since 1998. SHAPE is intended to assess the general health of residents of Hennepin County. Data from the SHAPE survey has been previously used to create programming and policy that is beneficial to the health needs of Hennepin County residents. Topics on the SHAPE survey vary based on the year it is administered, but consists of questions on diet, exercise, lifestyle, mental health, healthcare, community, and neighborhood. SHAPE is mailed to 40,000 households in the Hennepin County area, and this year we included in-person recruitment at the six Hennepin County Human Service Centers. All surveys were completed by one family member who is 18 years of age or older. At the Human Service Centers, we focused our surveys to the family member who was there for services.


During the field experience, I assisted the SHAPE survey in data collection and recruitment for the six Hennepin County Human Service Centers (HSC), data processing of both the mailed and HSC surveys, and any other tasks as assigned by my supervisor or fellow Assessment team colleagues. During recruitment, I was responsible for recruiting participants to fill out the survey at each HSC location, as well as train new volunteers on the proper protocol for recruitment. I was able to provide assistance to survey participants who couldn’t read our survey and actively recruit participants who were not being approached by volunteers. This allowed me to thoroughly engage with each HSC population and contribute to my understanding of the health disparities that exist in Hennepin County. Through data processing, I was responsible for short-tallying demographic data, cleaning SHAPE surveys during the pre-scan process, and scanning surveys into an excel spreadsheet. From engaging with the SHAPE survey data, I have been able to make inferences about the population of Hennepin County and their health needs while gaining experience with a large dataset from a population-based survey. From my time with Hennepin County, I have successfully gained skills in analyzing data on the health of communities, applying methods of working effectively and communicating with different populations, and build skills in recruitment and collection of health data pertaining to the community; all of which were the learning and professional development objectives I set for myself during the field experience.


Hennepin County Public Health is located in the Department of Health and Human Services at the local government level. Within Hennepin County Public Health, the Assessment team is in the area of Public Health Protection and Promotion. Hennepin County Public Health’s mission is to improve the health of all county residents by addressing social and environmental factors that impact their health and offering programs and services that help them to be healthy. Hennepin County geographically is not the largest county in Minnesota, but accounts for 22% of Minnesota’s population in the 2017 U.S. Census Bureau. Hennepin County houses the largest population of Somali people within the state of Minnesota. By working on the SHAPE Survey project, I was directly involved in assessing the social and environmental factors that impact the health of Hennepin County residents. From the results of the SHAPE survey, implementation of programming can be enacted in the areas that have certain health needs addressed by the SHAPE survey.


We had a goal of 400 completed surveys with addresses at each Human Service Center and was able to meet and exceed our goal at an average of four days at each location. Through recruitment and data collection, a gift card incentive was critical to our success, along with language assistance to reach the Somali families at each HSC. Without the help of Somali speaking volunteers, we would not have been able to reach this population. As of current numbers, we have approximately 8,500 completed mailed surveys. Demographics of the mailed surveys are predominantly White, elderly, and affluent. HSC surveys will be used to fill in the gaps for racial/ethnic groups and socioeconomic positions to create a more representative sample of Hennepin County. Through recruitment at the Human Service Centers, reports for each location will be created for the purpose of improving quality and access to services that are relevant to the community that utilizes them. The HSC surveys that have been geo-coded by addresses provided, making up 163 exact matches to households within our random sample and 823 matches to the buildings. Our next step is to match within proximity for North Minneapolis which generally has a low completion rate and is a harder to reach population comparatively to the other mailed locations. We received 184 surveys from members of the community that stated to be homeless, living in a shelter, or provided a PO Box as their current address. After the data cleaning process, I will be given the opportunity to analyze the data and create a needs assessment based on their responses since this data cannot be used in the analysis and results for SHAPE.

Lessons Learned

From the HSC experience, I improved my data collection skills through adaptations to the recruitment approach based on each population and the various spatial layouts of the Human Service Centers. Each location facilitated various techniques to approaching clients as there were other organizations conducting studies concurrently, different services that did not require a prolonged wait-time, and a pop-up dental clinic in place as we were recruiting. Each Human Service Center required Somali language support and created a language barrier in survey collection when culturally representative volunteers were not available to assist with recruitment in this population. Due to our successful survey collection provided by our incentive, members of the community began coming in during hours of operation to take the SHAPE survey. Surveys completed by non-service receiving members of the community may lead to an increase in questionable intent of survey responses. Members of the same household were filling out surveys, as well as clients from the community who attended multiple HSC locations during recruitment, this has led to an increase in duplicate survey responses from our HSC population.


I would recommend recruiting participants outside of the Human Service Centers. Although we are able to reach a portion of the hard-to-reach population, the HSC survey participants are a convenience sample of those who know where to find services and help with their health care needs. This could give us varying responses than those who do not know where to receive health services within Hennepin County.


Through the SHAPE survey, we will be able to promote programming and policies to better assist the health needs of Hennepin County residents. This opportunity has allowed me to further my passions within public health, while building skills in data collection and data processing of a population-based survey and engaging with the diverse population of Hennepin County.


  1. Human Services and Public Health. SHAPE surveys. Retrieved September 18, 2018, from
  2. U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hennepin County, Minnesota. (2017, July 1). Retrieved September 18, 2018, from