National health survey now under way

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a study of the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population, gets under way Friday in Wayne County.

The survey includes health interviews and health measurements, and is used to develop health policies and programs in the United States. It also is an opportunity for people to gain information about their health.

Each year, approximately 7,000 randomly-selected people in 15 counties across the nation have the opportunity to participate in the survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

NHANES has been conducted by NCHS for nearly 50 years and provides annual estimates on a range of diseases, such as the number of individuals who have heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, respiratory disease, and other conditions.

The information gathered in NHANES is used by public health officials, legislators and physicians to develop sound health policies, direct and design health programs and services, and expand the health knowledge for the nation.

County residents selected for the survey represent the U.S. population of all ages. Additional emphasis in the current NHANES is placed on the health of older people, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics.

Respondents first participate in a health interview conducted in their home. The health examination that follows takes place in one of three mobile examination centers that travel to different communities for data collection.

A team of health personnel, including a physician, dentist, nutritionists, and health and laboratory technicians using high-tech equipment, staffs the mobile examination centers. A team of specially-trained professionals conducts the household interviews.

All participants receive an examination by a physician, as well as a dietary interview, and body measurements that include height and weight. Some will be eligible for a hearing test, a scan to evaluate body fat, a breathing test, as well as a blood pressure test. The various tests and procedures depend upon the age of the participant.

No medical care is provided directly in the examination center, but a report on the medical findings is given to each participant along with an explanation from survey medical staff.

All individual information collected in the survey is kept confidential, and privacy is protected by public law.

Participants selected to undergo the physical examination receive reimbursement for travel expenses and remuneration of up to $125 per person.

“NHANES serves as the nation’s ‘health check-up,’ going into communities to get health information throughout the country,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said. “The survey is a unique resource for health information, and without it we would lack important knowledge about major health conditions.”