Information for Health Professionals
Participant Involvement and Benefits
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a population-based survey designed to collect information on the health and nutrition of the U.S. household population. Participants are selected using a random sampling method. You may have come across data gathered through NHANES during your professional education. NHANES data have been used to influence policy and improve the health of the U.S. population in many ways including: getting lead removed from gasoline; creating and updating the pediatric growth charts; and establishing national baseline estimates for cholesterol, blood pressure, and Hepatitis C in the U.S. NHANES data is used to design health programs and services, and expands our knowledge about the health of people in the U.S. For the most up-to-date information on NHANES data releases and data publications, see the What’s New page.
Watch a short video about participating in NHANES
There are two parts to this survey: the home interview and the health examination. We obtain written informed consent from each participant for both the in-home interview and the health exam. During the in-home interview, participants are asked questions about health status, disease history, and diet. The health exam is performed in a mobile exam center (MEC). These special mobile centers travel across the country with a highly trained medical team. During the health exam all tests performed are based on age and gender; however, no invasive procedures are done. Some of these tests (e.g., dual energy x-ray absorptiometry or DXA scans) are not normally performed at a physician’s office and could give the participant and his/her doctor additional information on his/her health.
For a list of examinations, see the Health Measurements list pdf icon[PDF – 383 KB]. Participants are informed that the NHANES health exam is not a substitute for their regular health care visits.
All participants receive a hardcopy of their final findings from their exams approximately 12 weeks after the exam. If the survey program detects an abnormal value, the participant is notified immediately by mail and/or phone call.
For additional information on participant involvement and benefits please refer to the Participant page.
Notification and Referral for Selected Infectious Diseases
NHANES is conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The objective of the survey is to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. We gather and protect all information in keeping with the requirements of Federal Law. The Public Health Service Act (42 USC 242k) authorizes data collection. Section 308(d) of that law (42 USC 242 m) and the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 USC 552A) prohibit us from giving out information that identifies individuals in the survey without their consent.
Because the survey is for health research purposes only, our methods encompass procedures for measuring health status in the general population. These methods are not always similar to those used in clinical settings. Additionally, our survey physicians do not complete a history or physical exam on individual participants and, therefore, do not diagnose medical conditions. If a health problem is suspected based on findings from the survey protocol, participants are informed and referred to their local healthcare provider or health department clinic for evaluation and management. The legal obligation to report notifiable diseases to authorities will be fulfilled by the local provider or health department clinic if the participant’s clinical or laboratory assessment by the provider meets the case definition for infectious conditions under public health surveillance in their state.
The following is the survey protocol for notification and referral:
Participants are given STD/HIV test results by a health educator certified in HIV counseling by phone, approximately one month after their examination. Adults who do not call in receive up to 3 reminder letters and 3 text messages. Teenagers are reminded by telephone, text, and letters. Participant identity is confirmed by a password. A participant with a positive test result based on the lab assays described below, is counseled and referred to his/her local doctor or health department STD clinic for repeat testing and/or evaluation. Upon request, a results letter is mailed to the participant. In addition to test results, laboratory assays used are reported in the letter as follows:
Explanation of the laboratory assays:
|Chlamydia||Urine was tested using the Gen-Probe Aptima Test (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test)|
|Herpes simplex type 2||Blood was tested by type-specific immunodot assay developed and performed by scientists at the Emory University School of Medicine to detect anti-HSV-2 antibodies.|
|HIV||Blood was tested using an immunoassay to detect antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 and HIV-1 p24 antigen, and if necessary, with the Gen-Probe Aptima test for HIV-1 RNA.|
|Trichomonas||Urine was tested using the Gen-Probe Aptima Test (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test)|
*The performance characteristics of a self-collected vaginal swab have not be validated. The results of this test should not be used for the diagnosis, treatment, or assessment of patient health and management without further clinical evaluation.
If acute sexually transmitted disease infection is suspected, repeat testing may be clinically indicated to ensure coverage of both the window and incubation period.
Chlamydia and Trichomonas – Urine was tested using the Gen-Probe Aptima Test (Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) at the following laboratory:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Laboratory Reference and Research Branch
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE
Building 23, 3-661, MS-A12
Atlanta, GA 30333
Herpes simplex type 2 – Blood was tested by type-specific immunodot assay developed and performed by scientists at the Emory University School of Medicine to detect anti-HSV-2 antibodies at the following location:
2015 Uppergate Dr.
Lab 510 E
Atlanta, GA 30322
HIV – Blood was tested using an immoassay to detect antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 and HIV-1 p24 antigen, and if necessary, with the Gen-Probe Aptima test for HIV-1 RNA at the following laboratory:
CDC/National Center for Infectious Diseases AID Division
Building 17, Room 3127, MS A-25
Atlanta, GA 30329