Philadelphia Health Researcher Launches National Coronavirus Survey; Here’s How to Participate


Population health researcher Sharon Larson says her first-in-the-nation survey is a rare opportunity to gather nearly real-time information on people’s needs, both emotional and physical, during an outbreak.

By Katrina Janco | March 21, 2020
Reporting by Matt Skoufalos

Coronavirus survey from Lankenau Institute researcher Sharon Larson. Credit: NJ Pen.

As the cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to climb, researchers around the world continue to study its effects, the better to guide policy, relief efforts, and to close gaps in the system for the most vulnerable among us.

To that end, a Philadelphia health researcher has launched the first-in-the-nation COVID-19 survey, designed to gather nearly real-time information from Americans in the midst of the pandemic.

Sharon Larson, Professor and Executive Director of Main Line Health Center for Population Health Research at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research and Jefferson College of Population Health, launched her 64-question Coronavirus Survey Thursday afternoon after having drafted and reviewed it earlier in the week.

Given the confinement of most Americans to their homes during the outbreak, Larson seized “a rare opportunity to grab experiences as they’re emerging,” and before the influence of factors like hindsight bias set in.

“We’re getting at feelings, attitudes, personal experiences,” she said. “[The survey explores]  how this is disrupting life, social anxiety as the result of being flooded with information, and the life-changing experiences that people are having.”

Larson’s work could track important health information across a variety of demographics both social and regional, down to the zip-code level.

“We can link that to what are the counts in individual counties, and how reality matches up with people’s perceptions of what’s going on over the course of time,” she said.

This work is particularly important for vulnerable populations who have less access to resources from finance to healthcare to transportation. Everyone’s level of health literacy varies, but people who might not be hearing public health messages from state and local leaders “are forced to make decisions that you and I might not have to make,” Larson said.

“People who are unemployed, or who have lower income, or older folks may have to make choices about survival in the short-term versus supporting these shelter-in-place or self-quarantine orders,” she said.

“That’s the story that we’d like to better understand.”

Larson hopes to gather survey results from a representative sample of the American population in four weeks, with publication of her analysis to follow. Some information will be released as it is made available before a final report emerges at the end, she said.

The survey takes approximately ten minutes to complete. Here’s a link.

Read our ongoing round-up of COVID-19 coverage here.

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