The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is conducting its annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in Queens from now through June 26 with an emphasis on youth fitness.
According to the CDC each person chosen has the chance to represent 65,000 other people who fit in their proper demographic group.
“In our screening tests we perform 120 different blood tests on each sample,” said Nora Martinello, a senior study manager for the CDC, “Whoever is tested will get a chance to see the results of those tests, which could benefit them in many different ways. They will also be paid a cash stipend to encourage involvement.”
Each year the program attempts to take a random population sample by choosing 15 counties across the United States. The proper population of an area is determined depending on the household address, age, race, gender, ethnicity and income and are chosen completely at random.
Information will be confidential so much so that the 14 neighborhoods throughout Queens chosen for the study can only be identified from the CDC as central and northern Queens. Officials say the test is necessary to benefit the nation’s health and food programs.
“NHANES serves as the nation’s ‘health check-up’,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said. “The survey is a unique resource for health information, and without it we would lack important knowledge about major health conditions.”
Martinello said that NHANES has been collecting data for the CDC for over 50 years and has chosen Queens many times because of its demographic diversity. From information gathered over the past few decades officials have reached conclusions that have affected everyday life like changing the food pyramid in recent years, and the posting of caloric intake of fast food on menus across the country.
“You know those commercials that say, ‘It would take this many bowls of cereal to get this much folic acid?’” Martinello asked. “That was us. We found from our testing that pregnant women need more folic acid to avoid spina bifida and we can do that with breakfast cereal.”
The NHANES test has also set the standards for healthy blood pressure levels and pediatric growth as it accelerates over time.
The CDC added that the most crucial information derived from the study consists of monitoring the overall health and nutritional status of the nation for statistical research reasons, assessing the fitness level of youth, developing effective health policies and programs for changes in health laws and a way of determining one’s own personal health and knowledge for the nation as a whole.
“Over the years, this survey has led to changes in the foods we eat and the health care we receive,” Director Edward Sondik, a doctor from the CDC said. “This information is used only for statistical research and reports.”
“We need to obtain certain information because this is the only resource we have of getting it,” she said. “NHANES is the main source of health information regarding osteoperosis and diabetes. We can then supply this information to the National Institute of Health, the USDA, FDA and many other government organizations.”
The CDC said it needs information more than ever this year on age groups from three to 15 in order to study youth fitness and dieting, all of which will lead to more knowledge on childhood obesity.
“Extreme ages will always be selected for the study,” Martinello said. “They are hard to find, and have critical health information we can use. With all the diversity we know they’re in Queens.”