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Press Release

For Immediate Release: March 18, 1999
Contact: CDC Media Relations (404) 639-3286

New NHANES Survey to Kick Off in Northern Virginia

The nation's most comprehensive study on the health and nutritional status of Americans is kicking off in Northern Virginia this week, CDC Director Jeffrey Koplan announced.

Each year, approximately 5,000 randomly-selected residents in 12 to 15 counties across the country will have the opportunity to participate in the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"NHANES is very much like a 'health exam center on wheels,' that goes out into actual communities to get data on real Americans," said Koplan. "It truly is a unique resource for health information in this country, and without it we wouldn't have data on a number of important health conditions."

Some of the past findings uncovered through NHANES include:

  • Between 1980 and 1994, the percent of U.S. adults who are obese increased from 15 percent to 23 percent. In addition, between 12 and 14 percent of children and adolescents are now overweight, more than double the number a decade ago.
  • From 1980 and 1994, the percent of adults with high serum cholesterol fell from 26 percent to 19 percent.
  • Over the same period, the percent of adults with hypertension fell from 39 percent to 23 percent.
  • In addition, NHANES data was used by NCHS to create the standardized growth charts that pediatricians across the country currently use to track children's growth.

NHANES has been conducted by NCHS periodically for more than 30 years, but beginning this year, the survey will be in the field continuously, and will provide annual estimates on a range of diseases such as the number of Americans who have heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, respiratory disease, tuberculosis and other conditions.

The information gathered in NHANES will be 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 the past, NHANES data has been used as the basis for such successful public health programs as the lead abatement effort led by CDC, EPA and HUD.

"Between 1980 and 1994, NHANES showed a 78 percent drop in the number of Americans who had levels of lead in their blood that were too high," said Koplan. "In essence, NHANES was able to tell us first that we had a problem, and then later tell us that our prevention strategies were working."

Individuals will be selected for the survey to represent the U.S. population of all ages. Special emphasis in the new NHANES will be on adolescent health, pregnant women, and the health of older Americans. African-Americans and Mexican-Americans are also over-sampled to enable accurate estimates for these populations.

Respondents will first participate in a health interview conducted in the respondent's home. The examinations that follow will take place in one of three mobile examination centers that will travel simultaneously to different communities, large and small, urban and rural, across the country for data collection. During the course of 1999, NHANES will also visit areas such as Orlando, Chicago and Southern California.

The mobile examination centers are staffed by a team of health personnel, including a physician, dentist, nutritionists, and health and laboratory technicians using high-tech, state-of-the-art equipment. A large staff of specially-trained professionals conducts the household interviews.

All participants will receive a focused examination by a physician, as well as a dietary interview, body measurement, and dental examination. There is also a fitness test, where many participants will walk on a treadmill while technicians assess their cardiovascular health. The various tests and procedures depend upon the age of the participant.

No medical care is provided directly in the examination centers, but medical and dental reports of findings are given to each participant if they wish.

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

Media tours of the NHANES examination centers can be scheduled through the NCHS public affairs office at (301) 436-7551 or at


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