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Interpreting in context

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Always interpret survey results in context

Surveys are limited in what they can tell you. (See section on Limitations of surveys). Therefore, in order to formulate the best conclusions and the most useful recommendations, you should gather additional information about the causes and risk factors for the health outcomes measured in the survey. This will allow you to make recommendations which address specific problems in that specific population.

A corollary of this principle is that recommendations should be as specific as possible so that readers know exactly what interventions or program revisions you are recommending. At the same time, recommendations should be realistic. It is of no use recommending that all children in a refugee population of 200,000 eat fresh fruit and vegetables every day. This is virtually impossible because relief agencies could not possibly provide sufficient quantities nor could most refugees afford to buy such food for themselves.

To place conclusions in context and make useful, detailed, realistic recommendations, whoever formulates the conclusions and recommendations must be very familiar with the population and programmes concerned. This usually means the consultant epidemiologist must meet with program managers and community leaders to present the results and cooperatively formulate conclusions and recommendations.