Essential Science

What is NHANES?

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. The survey is unique as it combines interviews and physical examinations.

The NHANES program launched in the early 1960s and has been conducted as a series of surveys focusing on different population groups or health topics. In 1999, the survey became a continuous program with a changing focus on a variety of health and nutrition measurements to meet emerging needs. The survey examines a nationally representative sample of about 5,000 persons each year. These persons are located in counties across the United States, 15 of which are visited each year.

The NHANES interview includes questions about participants’:

  • Demographics
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Dietary intake
  • Health status

The examination component consists of:

  • Medical evaluation
  • Dental evaluation
  • Physiological measurements
  • Laboratory tests administered by trained medical personnel

Findings from this two-part interview are used to determine the prevalence of major diseases and disease risk factors. The information is used to assess nutritional status and its association with health promotion and disease prevention. NHANES findings are also the basis for national standards for such measurements as height, weight, and blood pressure. Data from this survey are used in epidemiological studies and health sciences research, which help develop sound public health policy, direct and design health programs and services, and expand the health knowledge for the nation.

Learn more about NHANES

  • What is NHANES?

    Learn more about the program run by the Centers for Disease Control.

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  • Journal of Family Practice

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  • American Academy of Family Physicians

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  • Additional Academic Resources

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