Posted Friday, June 11th, 2010

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the most comprehensive study of the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population, is underway in portions of Morris County.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the NHANES is a unique program that monitors the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population, with the information gathered used to help develop effective health policies and programs.

Each year, approximately 7,000 randomly-selected residents in 15 counties across the nation have the opportunity to participate in the latest survey, conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.

“The survey is very much like a health exam center on wheels that goes out into actual communities to get data on real Americans,” said NCHS Director Edward Sondik. “Without it we wouldn’t have data on a number of important health conditions.”

The survey 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 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. In addition, the data is used to create standardized growth charts used by pediatricians across the country to track children’s growth.

Respondents first participate in a health interview conducted in the respondent’s home, with a health examination to follow in a mobile examination center. A team of health personnel, including a physician, nutritionists, and health and laboratory technicians using high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment, staffs the mobile examination centers.

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 skeletal health, 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 strictly confidential, and privacy is protected by public law.

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