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How to use this manual
What is formative research?
What do you want to know?
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Archival Data
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Archival data are data that already exist that have been collected by someone other than your agency. All kinds of agencies keep records and collect data—school districts, police departments, hospitals, STD clinics, and family planning clinics. This archival data is the simplest kind of data to gather, because someone else has already done the work for you, and you don’t have to ask anyone’s opinion. Yet gathering archival data is the one form of research most overlooked by many AIDS prevention agencies.

How is it used?

One agency in rural San Diego County suggested that gathering these kinds of data is an ideal task for any interns or volunteers at your agency. Contacting other social service organizations is an excellent way to forge links between agencies that can help in public relations (police departments or school boards) or in offering referrals and links to outside services (family planning clinics, substance abuse, or hospitals).

Archival data can help:

•    Refine programs. Police reports can help outreach workers schedule at what times and in what neighborhoods to best reach clients. Immigration data can help determine if any languages or services are needed to attract high-risk immigrants.

•    Highlight a problem that may be hidden. Data on truancy/dropout rates can show if youth are being adequately reached through school-based programs. Arrest records can highlight changes in sex work, drug selling, or other activities that might affect HIV prevention programs.

•    Monitor your program over time. Certain data can demonstrate that your program is having an impact. Collecting information on STD rates, drug overdoses, teen pregnancies, and drug-related arrests both before and after your program is implemented can help show what changes may have occurred in your community. These data can also be cited when writing grants or reporting back to funders.

•    Make a case for your program that you can’t make with agency data.

Case Study
  Peggy at the Department of Public Health in Humboldt County had to conduct an epi profile for the community prevention planning process in 1995. “A lot of the information we got just reinforced what we already know, but it also forced us to look at hepatitis B and hepatitis C. We did a serosurveillance among IDUs and found very high rates of both hep B and C (60-75%). We use that information to trigger dialogue, as a teachable moment. We do outreach and start talking about hepatitis B or C and people listen because almost everyone actually has it or has a close friend or partner who has it. Then we can say if you have hep B or C, you certainly don’t want HIV, and launch into a discussion about that.”



Types of archival data:
•    HIV counseling and testing data
•    AIDS case registry
•    Hospital reports of drug overdoses
•    School district attendance rates, including dropout rates, truancy rates, ESL rates and alternative schools
•    STD rates (collected by Health Department) including syphillis and anal gonorrhea
•    Epidemiological and surveillance studies done by local or state health departments or other AIDS service organizations
•    Teen pregnancy and abortion rates
•    Drug-related arrests
•    Other arrests such as loitering and public nuisance
•    Sex work arrests
•    Drug treatment clinic reports
•    Immigration rates

Resources for finding and accessing archival data can be found in Appendix 1 of the Resources section.

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Good Questions, Better Answers --  1998 California Department of Health Services and Northern California Grantmakers AIDS Task Force  --