of recommendations for the department’s data collection programs. This chapter draws upon that work.


DHHS conducts a number of household surveys that collect information on health and health status, health care utilization, and health care treatment of individuals. The major household surveys and some of their basic characteristics are listed in Appendix A (pages 129-144). These surveys each have different purposes and unique features to address specific questions. The flagship household surveys conducted by DHHS are the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Each is designed to yield data that are representative of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Each survey also collects a broad array of data about health and has special content and design features.

The NHIS is the largest of the surveys and the broadest in data content. It is a continuing survey conducted throughout the year to monitor the health of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population. Approximately 43,000 households comprising almost 106,000 individuals are interviewed each year. The NHIS respondent sample now serves as the sampling frame for the MEPS and the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), enabling linkage of the data collected from these three surveys.

The NHANES collects extensive information on health and diet, including a dietary recall of foods consumed by respondents, and includes a medical examination for respondents. The survey is not as large as the NHIS and recently has been conducted less frequently.2

The MEPS focuses on health care use, expenditures, sources of payment, health insurance coverage, and health status. It collects data longitudinally from households,3 interviewing respondents multiple times over a 2-year period.

Other household surveys conducted or developed by DHHS include the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS),4 the Consumer Assessment


NHANES I covered 1971-1975; NHANES II covered 1976-1980; NHANES III covered 1988-1994; and the current NHANES covers 1999-2003.


The MEPS also contains a component on health insurance collected from employers, unions, and other sources of private health insurance, a medical provider component, and a nursing home component.


The MCBS, which surveys 12,000 respondents annually, is a survey of current Medicare beneficiaries that focuses on the financing of health care, but also collects demographic characteristics, health status, insurance status, and information on institutionalization and living arrangements. Racial and ethnic data are collected in this survey. We will discuss this survey below when Medicare data are discussed.

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