NorthStar Survey: Results aiding base in creation of new, more focused plan

Robins Air Force Base, Ga. -- Members of the Robins community who were surveyed as part of the 2006 Air Force Community Assessment might have noticed the addition of some new questions.

These questions, which focused on secretive behaviors, were part of the NorthStar Survey, which Robins volunteered to participate in to better serve the Robins community.

"The extra questions focused on secretive behaviors. Things that are not good for them, but that they are not likely to tell someone they are doing such as illicit drug use, alcoholism or spousal abuse," said Linda Towry, Integrated Delivery System chair.

The questions in the NorthStar survey targeted areas of concern including community members with suicidal tendencies, alcohol problems, illicit drug use or prescription drug misuse and family maltreatment such as partner or child physical or emotional abuse.

"The NorthStar initiative is designed to get at some information that is not normally targeted," said Maj. David Estep, behavioral health flight commander. "It is not a sneaky way of asking the questions it is just a more effective way."

Robins was one of 25 bases that volunteered to participate in the NorthStar Survey; participation allowed a more accurate understanding of the community when it comes to secretive behaviors such as domestic violence, suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse.

"Robins elected to participate in the NorthStar survey because it provides better information and some evidence-based proven strategies," Major Estep said.

The information, which is all provided anonymously, doesn't signal out people, it signals out problems, Major Estep said.

"The survey gets at Robins culture and helps us find ways to solve problems that affect Robins culture," Major Estep said. "It gives us ways to reduce the stresses and pressures that cause people to participate in these secretive behaviors."

Now that the results are in, members of the IDS, a committee responsible for coordinating the entire prevention program on base such as child abuse, obesity, underage drinking and suicide prevention, are using the results to help focus the Robins Community Action Plan on some of the areas identified as problem areas.

Robins will now be able to address problems that exist in the Robins community that have not been addressed before because Robins had no way to identify the problems, Ms. Towry said.

Two problem areas identified by the NorthStar Survey were interpersonal relationships and alcohol consumption.

"Anything found through the NorthStar survey is new because we haven't measured these things before," Ms. Towry said.

The community action plan is expected to focus on three desired results as answers to problems identified by the community assessment and the NorthStar survey.

The first area the plan is expected to address is the Air Force spouses' ability to cope effectively with deployment by continuing existing programs such as spouse's game night, video and telephone morale calls and the Key Spouse program, which provides a link between deployed spouses and unit leadership and support agencies available.

The second area is to help establish and inform members of the community about what is available through base support agencies.

Ms. Towry said based on the results of the survey, members of the Robins community don't feel they have the support of their commanders and base agencies.

"Our goal is for them not to only feel they have support, but to know they are being provided support," she said.

The third focus area is a result of the NorthStar survey and its goal is to mitigate secretive behaviors. The two objectives are for members of the Robins community to engage in healthy interpersonal relationships with the intention to minimize emotional abuse within those relationships and for community members who consume alcohol to do so responsibly.

The Community assessment survey and the Community action plan are a biannual effort and the new community action plan is expected to be completed by July when it will be sent to the Robins Community Action Board for approval.