Questions and Answers

Q. I filled out the form on the website to receive my 2022 online survey, but I still haven’t received it. Where is it? 

A. It can take up to 48 hours for your 2022 online survey to reach your email inbox once you fill out the request form online. If you do not see it in your inbox by then, please check your spam or junk folder. If the email is from hpfs@hsph.harvard.edu, it is from us! If you still can’t find your 2022 online survey, please reach out.

Q: I received an email or postcard asking me to take the latest survey online. I am unable to respond online but wish to stay in the study. What should I do?

A: Anyone who does not respond to our online questionnaires will still receive a paper copy in the mail once they become available. You will not be removed from the study if we do not hear from you! The paper copy of our questionnaire will likely arrive during the summer months. 

If possible, we do greatly appreciate you taking the survey online, as it is much less resource intensive to process online surveys as opposed to our traditional paper surveys.

Q: I received a survey invitation from you by email, but it was marked as potential spam. How can I tell if the email is truly from Health Professionals?

A: If the email you received is sent from hpfs@hsph.harvard.edu then it is from us! If you would like to check, you can respond directly to this email, and we would be happy to verify that it is from us.

Q: I would like to receive or see results of this study. Where can I find them?

A: While we cannot provide individual level results because our data are used on an aggregate level, we can direct you to some of the amazing research being done with your HPFS data! 

The best place to read some of our most significant findings would be in our newsletters, which can be read online here. Additionally, our study contributes to the HSPH Nutrition Source, found here. The HSPH Nutrition Source website is a great resource to find food and nutrition guidance for healthier living! If you didn’t receive a copy of our latest newsletter in the mail and would like a paper copy, you can email us as hpfs@hsph.harvard.edu and we would be happy to mail you one as long as our supplies last!

Q. I’m a health professional. Can I join the study?

A. Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately, no. The design of a cohort study like the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study requires that we track lifestyles and medical histories of the original group enlisted in 1986. We learn what to do by seeing how the subjects’ diets and lifestyles affect their health over time.

Q. I’d like a copy of one or more of the published articles. Where can I obtain these?

A. The most likely place to find articles published in health journals is your local medical library. In addition, some journals publish abstracts or full articles on the World Wide Web. If you don’t live near a medical library and the article you’re interested in isn’t on the web, ask a reference librarian at any public library to recommend a way to see a copy.

Q. The researchers in this study have looked at a medical problem that I’m concerned about. Can I get advice from them?

A. Accurate medical diagnoses are unique to individuals. It is impossible for us to give individualized responses to an individual’s health questions. Your personal physician is best able to provide useful advice.

Q. I’m a family member of a participant and I want to alert HPFS of their death. How should I proceed? 

A. We are so sorry for your loss. Please reach out to our team at hpfs@hsph.harvard.edu or call 617-998-1067 and leave a detailed message with the participant’s name, date of birth, date of death and participant ID number (if known). Thank you for letting us know. We are very grateful for your continued support and participation in HPFS.

Q. I’m a scientific researcher and would like to use the data for my own research. Is this possible?

A. The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study has a proud history of successful collaborations with investigators outside of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard medical community, subject to approval by the HPFS study group.  However, you are responsible for your own funding and must collaborate with one of the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study researchers. Please refer to the directions on our For External Collaborators page for further instruction on how to get involved with the HPFS as an external collaborator.

Q. What kinds of questions are on the questionnaires?

A. The questionnaires include items about medical conditions, medications, tobacco use, and exercise. In addition, every four years a food frequency questionnaire is administered to collect detailed information about amounts and types of foods and beverages consumed. The questionnaires can be found on our website linked here. Please pay close attention to the permissions surrounding the use of our questionnaires.

Q. How do you know that the questionnaires are eliciting accurate information?

A. The validity of self-reported information has been tested several times by comparing subject reports against actual measurements. The evidence indicates that the data gathered in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study has a high degree of validity. (See publication lists for studies of questionnaire validity.)

Q. Does the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study share any information about the participants?

A. No. All information gathered is anonymous, and identities of participants are never shared with anyone. In the offices housing the data, all identifying information, such as participants’ names and addresses, is separated from the health information and kept under lock and key.

Q. What percent of the study population is from minority populations? How does this affect the results?

A. One percent of the cohort is African-American and one and a half percent is Asian-American. In research in which ethnic background is a focus, the researchers over-sample from these groups in order to draw valid results.

Q. Are the findings from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study applicable to women?

A. Sometimes. Most of the interesting findings from the study are also examined using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, a similar research project with women as participants.

Q. What is the response rate?

A. Approximately 93 percent of the original cohort still participates.

Q. Are you affiliated with the Harvard Health Letters?

A. No, although the Health Letters may cite our reports.