NHANES at HGTC

Technicians work in the onsite lab of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey mobile unit, housed on the campus of Horry-Georgetown Technical College. 

Horry-Georgetown Technical College is helping to gather data for national statistics regarding health and wellness by hosting the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

NHANES gathers information from people all over the United States to learn more about the health of the nation. According to NHANES, they are the only survey that combines health interview and examination data to produce in-depth information about the health of the U.S. population.

“We are very excited about NHANES conducting the survey on our Conway Campus, and being able to accommodate the medical exam unit for their health professionals to perform examinations,” said Dr. Marilyn Fore, HGTC President. “Data collected from the survey will impact our everyday lives. We hope Horry County residents will participate in the free and comprehensive health and nutrition evaluation to help in the development of national health programs and policies.”

According to Susan King, study manager, 15 counties out of the nation are selected, and within those 15 counties, 20-24 regions are chosen.

Thirty to seventy addresses in each region are chosen, and in Horry County, around 400 people were chosen to participate. King said they should have received letters or even personal visits from NHANES representatives inviting them to take part in the survey.

“We’re trying to get a complete picture of the population of our country,” King said.

NHANES officials said that the survey volunteer selection includes all ages, races and ethnicities.

The complete survey takes around four hours, she said, with the first hour consisting of interview questions about health and family history, nutrition, and habits, to name only a few topics.

A host of NHANES employees are on board their mobile unit, housed just off Victory Lane on the HGTC campus.

Rita Washko, who said she is the back-up physician on the unit, said that she works alongside the physicians and technicians to evaluate lab results.

She said they don’t diagnose or treat, but if for example a volunteer shows elevated blood pressure or signs of depression, it will flag the file in her system and she can help the volunteer find referrals for help.

Dental health is also included in the examination, as well as a discussion regarding grocery purchases and diet, including correct portion sizes. Babies and children also part of the survey, with their heights and weight data used to help develop growth charts and graphs used by pediatricians throughout the country.

A phlebotomist is on hand to take blood samples, and a standing balance test and bone density test are also offered in the survey.

An onsite lab is able to give volunteers preliminary findings from their tests, with full in-depth results sent to them after about 10 or 12 weeks, King said.

The unit will continue to survey the randomly-selected volunteers through March 11.

“NHANES serves as the nation’s ‘health check-up’, by going into communities to collect health information throughout the country,” said National Center for Health Statistics Acting Director Jennifer Madans. “The survey provides a wealth of important data about many of the major health and nutritional issues affecting the country.”

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