CDC will focus health survey on county

Feb. 12, 2013 @ 07:03 PM

Invitations to participate in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey arrives in Union County mailboxes this week.

Annually, the health of 5,000 Americans is measured and analyzed and compiled into a database. The survey samples the health of certain populations on a massive scale and the data used by medical researchers for health initiatives or treatment research for widespread illnesses, CDC NHANES Study Manager Jaque DeMatteis said. Starting Feb. 23, survey workers will begin interviewing qualifying Union County residents for participation in the study, she said. Those selected will undergo health testing in the CDC’s mobile examination center.

Not only do survey participants see the results of a battery of thorough testing, they also receive a little pocket money. Participants are reimbursed up to $125 for their time and transportation, DeMatteis said.

“In fact, it can be a little more than that,” she said. “There are follow-ups and dietary evaluations, other things that they can do that adds up to be about $185 for an adult participant.”

The NHANES survey is the nation’s largest program tracking Americans’ health and dietary habits. While survey workers collect individual health information, it is compiled into a larger bank of data about certain groups, like pregnant women, the elderly, diabetic children or any population of interest to medical researchers. This data has been used to solve widespread medical problems in the last 50 years, like linking birth defects with women who do not consume enough folic acid during pregnancy. That discovery prompted fortification of consumer foods to boost folic acid intake, thereby reducing birth defects.

The CDC sent about 1,500 invitation letters to county residents, DeMatteis said. Workers will interview potential survey participants and select those who fall into the population groups the survey focuses on this year.

“For those selected, we’ll perform thousands of dollars worth of tests to assess their overall health,” DeMatteis said. “These are tests that they probably wouldn’t otherwise have done, even with the best insurance policies available.”

The tests will examine specific health factors not otherwise have tested unless a doctor ordered them, she said. This wealth of information about the individual’s health is shared with them and can be passed on to their doctor for diagnosis or treatment of ailments.

But the real benefit is in the composite profile of that particular age, gender, race or other criteria, DeMatteis said.

“We don’t diagnose or treat based on the data we collect. We don’t make assumptions about a population’s health based on our data. We leave that to the medical researchers and scientists who use the data.” DeMatteis said.

And researchers rely heavily on the survey’s findings, she said. It represents concrete medical testing results instead of assumptions or estimates. Lawmakers, nutritionists, businesses, public health workers and medical students use the survey to base policy, quality of life measurements and new health programs for different groups.