Winthrop

How healthy are U.S. citizens? Winthrop to research issue with $3M from SC

Winthrop University’s polling lab has received more than $3 million in grants to support social behavior and health research.
Winthrop University’s polling lab has received more than $3 million in grants to support social behavior and health research. tkimball@heraldonline.com

Winthrop University has received more than $3 million in state contracts to support social behavior and health research.

The university has since 2002 researched public opinion through the Winthrop Poll, in which callers collect and analyze data on social and behavioral issues, according to Winthrop. Winthrop’s polling lab, called the Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research, is a research arm of the university’s Department of Political Science.

In the latest Winthrop Poll, the research focused on race and whether citizens believe whites benefit from “privilege,” or non-whites face “barriers” in society, according to The State newspaper in Columbia. Past polls have analyzed opinions on sexual harassment, political issues and school safety.

The South Carolina health department has awarded the university two research contracts, one for $2.38 million over five years and the other of $800,000 over four years, according to Winthrop. The surveys are sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and overseen by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

“Receiving state contracts of this size is a testimony to the impressive work conducted by the Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research,” Winthrop President Dan Mahony said in a prepared statement. “Winthrop is proud to house this research and analysis service to inform the public on a variety of important topics, while also providing Winthrop students with employment and real-world polling experience.”

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems Survey will focus on ways to improve the health of U.S. residents, according to Winthrop. The survey will be given to people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. A follow-up survey will focus on people who have children living in their home. Eligible respondents will be asked to complete a children’s health assessment survey that is focused on health behaviors of children in South Carolina.

“The purpose of the study is to gather information that affects the choices people make to stay healthy, the way in which the medical community perceives and treats certain illnesses, and the access that people have to health care. Its goal is to improve the health of the residents in each state,” reads a statement from Winthrop.

A second study, the Adult Tobacco Survey, will gauge the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of South Carolina residents aged 18 or older on tobacco use, according to Winthrop. The information will help the state health department evaluate South Carolina’s tobacco control program and compare data with other states.

Winthrop’s research lab typically performs four Winthrop Polls per year, but with the contracts will add 12 additional surveys per year, according to the university. The lab recently expanded from 25 to 54 calling stations.

Scott Huffmon, poll director and founder, said the projects will expand the lab’s service to the community and state. Huffmon is a political science professor at Winthrop.

“Taking on these endeavors is a continuation and expansion of our ongoing commitment to serve the people of South Carolina,” Huffmon said in a statement. “This kind of service is a natural complement to the Winthrop Poll which keeps residents and lawmakers informed of the opinions of South Carolinians.”

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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