The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the authority on health information in the United States. Its resources and information provide the basis for countless studies, not to mention news reports. But, have you ever wondered where all that information comes from? It all starts with the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES.
"Basically NHANES, which is ongoing for 50 years now, is the central point of collection or information about health," explained study manager Jacque DeMatteis. "When you read it in the paper, when you see it on TV, the data and the percentages, the new information is based on this.
Each year survey teams visit 15 counties throughout the U.S. In each area, teams go door to door conducting health interviews. Participants are then asked to come to one of these CDC mobile units for a full head to toe health and nutrition evaluation. All screenings are free, and patients are given the results to share with their doctor if they choose. Each evaluation only lasts a few hours, and participants are compensated for their time.
The collected information is then stripped of any personal identity and shared with researchers. The end result is a comprehensive look at America's health across every group and demographic.
However, the success of the survey depends on resident participation.
"Without the data and information, the researchers have no place to start their wonderful work," said DeMatteis.
Examples of the survey's success can be seen each day. For instance, researchers first discovered that several birth defects were caused by a lack of folic acid in the mother's diet thanks to the NHANES data. Also, the child growth charts used by pediatricians is compiled using information collected by the survey.
Participants are chosen by statisticians using census data. You will receive a letter in the mail if you are asked to take part. CDC officials who visit are given badges and credentials for identification. They also alert local law enforcement that surveyors are in the area.
More information can be found here.
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