If a stranger knocks on your door in the next few weeks, it could be an invitation to help shape federal health policy.
Maricopa County is among 15 counties surveyed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this year. More than 500 local participants are needed for the largest health and nutrition examination of Americans.
The results determine prevalence and risk factors for diseases, assess nutrition standards and guide health care policy development.
"It’s the predominant survey we have that looks upon the nation and tells us what kind of progress we’ve made," said David Dube, preventive health services director for Maricopa County Department of Public Health.
"It’s what helps policymakers in government decide where to allocate money," said Sherwin Bates, study manager with the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. "It’s a snapshot of the health of the entire U.S."
The CDC visits different counties each year. Survey results, for instance, have sounded the alarm on lead levels and high cholesterol. The first survey was conducted in the early 1960s.
About 35 interviewers, health technicians, lab technicians, nurses, dentists and physicians are canvassing neighborhoods and examining people in four adjoining tractor-trailer rigs parked at Gateway Community College in Phoenix. The work began last month and continues through mid-December.
Participation is voluntary, and those who meet demographic requirements are paid $100 cash, plus a transportation stipend to cover the cost of traveling to the examination site. A health interview is done in the person’s home, then a full medical and dental exam is scheduled. All information is confidential and each participant receives a report of medical findings.
Nationwide, about 5,000 people are examined each year, representing the U.S. population of all ages. The current survey emphasizes the health of adolescents and older Americans, so more of those populations will be surveyed. With the dramatic growth in the aging population, the surveys are expected to play a key role in developing policy and research.
The study also pays particular attention to the ongoing health problems of obesity, diabetes, exercise and nutrition.
For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm