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Special Populations

Sometimes visible to us, but more often hidden in plain sight, special populations inhabit the margins of our society, each with a unique set of needs. Ethnic minorities, veterans, disabled people, prison inmates, refugees and immigrants, children, and the elderly all face complex challenges as they strive to attain the advantages that other groups enjoy. Recent political events have added more pressure, such as increased U.S. military operations that have produced more veterans with special needs. Meanwhile, the weakening of traditional sources of economic stability, like home ownership, places special populations at even greater risk of hardship.

NORC helps government and organizations understand, evaluate—even manage—the programs and interventions that support these special populations and improve their circumstances. We have worked in this area since the 1950s, concentrating at that time on rural residents and welfare recipients. In the mid 1970s, NORC partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on a longitudinal study to evaluate the efficacy of the Experimental Housing Allowance Program. The 1980s brought new insights about disadvantaged ethnic groups when NORC partnered with distinguished sociologist William Julius Wilson on the Urban Poverty and Family Life Survey of Chicago. More recently, NORC leveraged its extensive work on the National Immunization Survey (using the State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey data collection mechanism) to develop separate surveys on adoptive parents and children with special needs.

Today, NORC’s work emphasizes healthcare and other issues that touch multiple special populations. For example, our work with the Department of Veterans examines healthcare access for rural veterans living far from urban veterans’ hospitals. We also designed a multi-mode data collection and feasibility study on the natural history of children born with Spina Bifida; served as a partner on the highly complex, award-winning HIV Cost and Services Utilization Study; and continue to serve in an information management role for the Traumatic Brain Injury Technical Assistance Center.

Key to any work on special populations is knowing the right questions to ask and asking them in a highly sensitive manner. NORC brings this expertise, a broad understanding of quantitative and qualitative methodology, and deep knowledge about health information technology to uncover the insights that lead to effective decision making and planning.

Specific areas of expertise include:

Representative Projects

2009 - 2010 National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Sponsored by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau and coordinated through the National Center for Health Statistics, the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs provides data on the health care needs of special needs children. More

2010 Census Integrated Communications Program Evaluation. NORC was selected to conduct a rigorous and independent evaluation of the communications campaign for the 2010 Census to assess the campaign's success and help preparations for the 2020 Census. More

Conversion of Criminal History Records into Research Databases (CCHRRD). For years, BJS has used information stored in the nation’s automated criminal history records to assess the officially-recognized, law-violating behavior of various samples of individuals.  To do recidivism studies, BJS has provided state criminal history repositories with identifying information on study subjects and has requested each participating state repository to extract selected information on each subject’s criminal justice activities, thus creating a reporting burden for participating repositories. In addition, the structure and content of the data extracted from these repositories varies from state to state requiring customized software to transform each state’s data into a commonly-formatted, researchable database.  In light of these challenges, only two national recidivism studies of released prisoners have been performed by BJS to date; the first in 1983 and the latest in 1994.  More

Evaluation of the Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Projects.

Funded by the National Institute of Justice, this project is designed to evaluate the Second Chance programs which were designed to facilitate the successful re-entry of prisoners to their communities and include strategies to reduce recidivism and subsequent criminal behavior, enhance employment and earnings, facilitate retraining, stabilize housing, and reduce the instance of substance abuse. More

Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) Risk Factor Survey. The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health Across the U.S. (REACH U.S.) program is the cornerstone of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) efforts to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. NORC conducts two projects related to CDC’s REACH U.S. program. NORC conducts an annual survey in 28 REACH U.S. grantee communities to provide quantitative data to measure progress toward eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities in several health priority areas. NORC also uses existing data and a literature review to assess the role of cultural tailoring and translation on grantees’ activities related to policy, system and environmental changes.  More

See all Special Populations projects

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