May 25, 2022

Selected Marion County residents urged to participate in national health study

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey connects four semi-trailers to offer the entire health screening inside its mobile clinic. - Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey connects four semi-trailers to offer the entire health screening inside its mobile clinic.

Carter Barrett/Side Effects Public Media

Researchers are more than halfway through gathering participants from Marion County for a national health study that provides a snapshot of the United States’ overall health and nutrition. Still, national and local leaders are pushing for more responses from residents who received a letter to participate in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

“The big thing that I want people in Marion County to understand is that we need you,” said George Dixon, the field coordinator for NHANES. “We need you to help us better understand our nation's health.”

Each year, 15 counties across the country are selected to participate in the survey.

The National Center for Health Statistics, a branch of the CDC, launched the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in late April. Staff will remain in Indianapolis through mid-June. 

NHANES leaders hope to examine at least 335 participants in Marion County, and are more than halfway to that goal. An estimated 5,000 participants are surveyed nationally.

“With the survey, we will be among the first in the nation to have access to this critical health care data,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. “So this information can help drive our public health efforts and will play a crucial role in helping to keep the city of Indianapolis healthy.”

The mobile clinic offers a full-body bone density scanner, an ultrasound for liver scans and a laboratory.


The survey will also collect data on air quality and the availability of healthy food in grocery stores. The data may be used by public officials to design health programs and services to address health concerns like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

“Over the past 60 years, this particular program has helped to get lead out of gasoline and paint,” Caine said. “It's helped to create children's growth charts. It's found the link between cholesterol and health and heart disease. And more importantly, it’s identified environmental toxins.”

If selected to participate in the survey, Marion County residents will receive a letter in the mail.  In an effort to obtain a random sample, only people invited are allowed to participate. A NHANES staff member will come to your home and ask to conduct a voluntary interview. Participants may also be asked to do a health exam at no cost to them.

“I want to say if anybody's apprehensive, on the fence, just know that you are in control,” Dixon said. “You can do as much as you want, or as little as you want.”

The exam takes place at NHANES' mobile clinic located on Indianapolis’ north side. The clinic has an on-board laboratory, ultrasound machine and a full-body bone density scanner. All information collected is confidential. Individuals will be informed about results from all tests conducted during the health exam, which Dixon said has an estimated value of about $4,500.

Contact health reporter Carter Barrett at Follow on Twitter: @carter_barrett.

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