City Hall sending out $5 bills with health surveys

Don’t rip up the next letter you get from the city’s health department — there might be cash inside.

The city’s top docs are offering the age-old incentive of cold hard cash to thousands of New Yorkers they hope will take a Department of Health survey, slipping $ 5 bills inside the envelopes like a birthday card from grandma, the Daily News has learned.

While a fiver may seem like chump change, the unsolicited cash being sent out across the city — which recipients get to keep whether they actually take the survey or not — adds up to $ 21,532, according to the health department.

“The Health Department often conducts surveys on the current health and wellness of New Yorkers using a standard research industry approach that incentivizes participation,” department spokesman Chris Miller said. “The data we collect helps us to inform policy that can ultimately improve the health of all New Yorkers.”

The money is meant to sway people to participate in a survey about their health that takes about 25 minutes, according to a copy of the survey invitation obtained by The News.

“The information is important to help understand the current well-being of New Yorkers,” reads the letter, signed by Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “We realize your time is valuable. We have enclosed $ 5 to thank you for considering participating.”

About 6,000 randomly selected households were sent the invitation to take the survey online or on paper, but not all of them are getting the cash. The department said it’s currently testing the use of incentives, and cited a study that argues pre-paid incentives make people more like to take a survey.

The total cost of the health survey is $ 520,000, according to the department. The survey is being conducted by research firm ICF, which is mailing out the letters from a Martinsville, Va., return address.

In the letter, Dr. Bassett indicates the questions will be wide-ranging.

“Some of the questions may not seem directly related to health,” the letter says. “We are trying to get a fuller picture of your experiences to better understand their impact on health.”

It’s not the first time New Yorkers have been paid to share their health habits. In 2011, the state’s Health Department spent $ 80,000 paying state residents who completed a survey about their smoking habits $ 20 a pop.

mary bassett

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