tion systems are important sources of child health information, they are not comprehensive enough to allow for detailed examination of patterns, trends, and disparities in health.

The surveys are ordered from left to right according to the design and frequency of the survey. Organized from left to right are ongoing cross-sectional national surveys of children’s health, followed by shorter duration or paneled longitudinal design surveys, and then small one-time specialty surveys. For each survey, we summarize key aspects of the design, including the frequency, origin date, sponsor, research design, sample size, age-group focus, and respondent (Table B-1). We then review, in Tables B-2 through B-4, the child health measures and influences on child health. Each child health topic is coded with a somewhat arbitrary system that indicates whether the topic is measured “comprehensively” (defined as three or more questions), “adequately” (defined as one or two questions), through a biological or physical mechanism (e.g., blood test), using data from a birth certificate, or not at all. The variables examined in the tables are organized and correspond with the structure of the report. Note: Some questions included in the tables (e.g., MEPS) are asked only of specific age groups (e.g., ages 5-17).


The review identifies patterns of health topics that are commonly covered in national health surveys as well as gaps in which topics have rarely or never been addressed. We discuss the results with respect to whether the survey was a one-time endeavor or an ongoing initiative in order to analyze the consistency of data on specific topics. We also briefly discuss the measurement of race and ethnicity across surveys because of the national focus on eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health.

Measurement of Children’s Health Conditions

Many of the national surveys ask parents to report on specific health conditions that are common among children and adolescents. The most common conditions are asthma, mental disorders (measured broadly), infectious diseases, pregnancy among teens, and child injuries. These conditions, however, were measured in no more than half of all the surveys. While the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) assess the greatest breadth of conditions, NHANES collects the most comprehensive and detailed information on specific conditions. Because NHANES collects biological samples from children (usually a blood test) to assess the presence of certain conditions, it also has the potential to collect things such as biomarkers.

Despite the comprehensiveness of NHIS and NHANES, there remain some gaps in the measurement of children’s health conditions across surveys. Among

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