Mahoning County Residents Part of National Health Survey

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Mahoning County residents will play a role in shaping the country’s future health policies as they take part in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Through August 3, representatives from the organization will survey 490 randomly selected Mahoning County residents about all aspects of their health, from medication to diet to diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.

“We’re not looking for anything in particular. We are looking at Americans’ health,” says study manager Jennie Echols. “Are people getting fatter or thinner? Is there more cardiovascular disease or less? What medications or supplements are people taking? How is people’s diet compared to 10 years ago?”

The data will be combined with surveys done in 14 other counties across the United States – some 5,000 people will be interviewed in total – and the surveys done next year are to create an overall picture of the health of the country.

“We want a representative cross-section of the American public,” Echols says. “All races, all ages, all ethnicities and all genders. We don’t individually choose them. It’s a statistical process of sampling.”

Those selected to take part in the survey are notified first by mail and if the letter isn’t responded to, field workers will visit the address. Houses are chosen at random by the CDC and all information is kept private. As part of the survey, residents are interviewed and go through a physical examination. Surveyors ask about eating habits, weight history, alcohol and tobacco use and sexual history, among other things.

The comprehensive study was first conducted in the late 1960s and has been done continuously since 1999. In the 1970s, the study found high levels of lead in Americans across the country, leading to the removal of the heavy metal from paint and gasoline. In addition, Echols adds, the information in pediatricians’ growth charts comes from measurements taken in the survey.

This is the first time Mahoning County has been selected as a survey site, Echols says. All counties in the U.S. have an equal chance of being chosen.

“There are lots of different questions and lots of health organizations like the American Heart Association will use this to understand the nation’s health better,” she says.

And while some may squirm at the thought of having blood drawn or dread going to their annual checkup, those involved say the benefits of the survey will shape the country’s health policies for years to come.

“It’s an interesting thing to go through and it’s been very informative,” says Diane Delpine, a field office worker who completed the survey Monday morning. “I’ve told all my friends that if they come to your home, you need to participate because it’s an important thing.”

Pictured: Diane Delpine goes through a physical examination as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with the help of health technician Carlise Cramner.

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