DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. — An important survey is being done right now in Davidson County that impacts what we know about people's health nationwide. It's called NHANES, or the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, and the CDC does it every year.
The CDC selects 15 different counties from all across the country to participate. This is the second time Davidson County has been chosen, which the study manager says is very rare.
“So we’re looking to examine around 600 participants here,” NHANES Study Manager Victor Barajas said. "Every participant that gets selected represents 65,000 other people with the same characteristics, so it’s very important that everyone who gets selected participates because we get to inform the nation of the different needs that we have."
The participants range from infants to some of the oldest people in the community and are supposed to come from a variety of economic and diverse backgrounds.
The survey gives health experts a look at someone's comprehensive health, which includes a physical exam and an interview of factors that impact someone's health. All of the information gathered is supposed to give researchers an idea of what people all across the country are facing health-wise.
“All of that information is going to give us a better assessment of obesity rates, cardiovascular rates, all of those things that are affecting people all across the U.S. So it’s not only going to give us an assessment of what’s happening here in Davidson County, but it’s going to give us an assessment of what’s happening across the US,” he said.
The survey includes two parts.
The first part is an interview.
Then there is a multifaceted medical exam. That includes lab work, bone density scans, a dental exam, a hearing test, and more. Typically that kind of medical testing would take weeks and likely be expensive, but participants get it for free.
“It’s a great way to find out where your health is. Even if you have insurance, even if you go to the doctor regularly, the level of examining is going to surpass any of that just because it’s going to be representative of the health of other Americans all across the U.S.,” Bajaras said.
That kind of testing has helped people find health problems they might not have been aware they had. For example, NHANES has found three out of 10 Americans do not know they have diabetes.
NHANES chooses the areas where they will conduct the survey by dividing all of the counties in the country into 15 different sections.
One county is selected from each section, and then the counties are divided into small groups from which roughly 30 households are chosen. Interviewers go to those households and get information on everyone who lives inside.
The Davidson County Department of Health and other local agencies are trying to get the word out about the study because they want the people who are invited to participate in the survey to know it's real, and it has an important impact on the country.
“So this is a 100% real survey that has a great history across the nation,” Davidson County Health Strategist Janna Walker said. "So I really hope that our residents, if they are selected, if someone comes and knocks on their door, that they will talk to the interviewers and participate in the study because they are benefiting the county, they are benefiting themselves and they are benefiting the nation."
All of the information given is completely confidential, but you are able to get the results from all of the medical testing.
This information is used to influence public policy. It also helps researchers and universities study things that impact health for all Americans.
The study started in Davidson County on Jan. 31, and it will end March 26.