Pennington helping with nationwide health survey

Pennington Biomedical Research Center will host part of a nationwide federal health survey beginning Wednesday.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey has examined and interviewed more than 140,000 people since 1956, according to the website for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

“NHANES serves as the nation’s ‘health check-up,’ going into communities to collect health information throughout the country,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a written statement. “The survey is a unique resource for health information, and without it we would lack important knowledge about major health conditions.”

Baton Rouge-area residents who have been selected for the study will be among 5,000 people across the nation to undergo the free medical tests and examinations in the survey.

“NHANES has provided an incredibly rich source of information in regards to important public health concerns such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other heart disease risk factors,” said Dr. William Cefalu, executive director of Pennington.

“Our scientists use NHANES data in their studies on a regular basis, and it is great to see the data collection first hand,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director for preventive medicine and healthy aging at Pennington.

Pennington has ongoing research projects aimed at determining the health effects of overweight conditions, as well as exercise or lack of exercise on people.

Now, the Pennington staff is encouraging those Baton Rouge-area residents selected for the NHANES study to take advantage of the opportunity.

“Individuals selected for the NHANES program represent the U.S. population covering all ages, races and ethnicities,” Pennington officials said in a written statement. “No medical care is provided directly in the mobile examination center, but a report on physical findings is given to each participant, along with an explanation from survey medical staff.”

“Public laws keep all information participants give confidential,” the CDC said.

CDC officials said on their website the survey offers participants a free opportunity to take advantage of unique tests and measurements that are not commonly done in doctor’s offices.

For example, CDC officials explained, some participants could receive a DXA body scan that is used to measure bone density.

Added Pennington officials: “Everyone in the U.S., from babies yet to be born to the elderly, has benefited from the information gathered by NHANES.

The comprehensive data collected by NHANES has a far-reaching and significant impact on everything from the quality of the air we breathe, to the vaccinations you get from your doctor, to the emergence of low-fat and ‘light’ foods on the shelves of your grocery story.”