Written by Sophie Thibodeaux // Photo by Balazs Balassa
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had trailers parked beside the Ganus Activities Complex (GAC) since last November for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to collect health and nutrition data on White County residents. The trailers were removed from campus on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Dr. Lisa Ritchie, professor of family and consumer sciences (FCS), said the CDC is conducting an ongoing survey to gather data about the health and nutrition status of people in the U.S..
“They divide all of the counties in the U.S. into 15 different buckets and choose randomly a county out of each bucket,” Ritchie said. “The buckets are based on size and makeup of the community, and they try to assess 5,000 people a year. When they come to White County, they randomly select people to participate in the screening, and it’s just data collection to find out how we’re doing.”
Ritchie added that the survey goes beyond analyzing people’s health.
“We talked with the chief medical officer, and he told us that the data is used in planning programs,” Ritchie said. “How wide should an airline seat be? All kinds of things that we’re going to interact with every day, and we have no idea. It’s more than just how we’re doing health-wise.”
According to Ritchie, there were three sets of trucks outside the GAC, combined into a small clinic. Dr. Brittany Cumbie, FCS department chair, spoke about the involvement of the survey at Harding.
“They reached out to us at Harding to the nutrition department and the family consumer sciences because we talk about the surveys that they do in all of our courses,” Cumbie said. “The surveys they do in the community help outline and change guidelines. So some of the things that they survey in their health surveys have changed the food pyramid plates … People in the community receive letters, so it was a randomized study that not everyone in Searcy or White County got a letter.”
Dr. Baldemar Gomez, the manager of the surveys in the trailers, said the survey has been ongoing for more than 50 years, targeting 15 counties annually.
“We do what we call an initial screening of who lives in a particular residence, and then once we identify who lives there, the computer will randomly select a number of people to participate in the survey,” Gomez said.
Gomez said the survey team is usually at a given location for about five to six weeks.
“Our goal was to be able to identify at least anywhere between 300 to 350 to be selected for the health exams,” Gomez said. “Those people who were selected to do the exams, when they come in, we do a series of exams including blood work analysis, body measurements, blood pressure, an ultrasound on adults and a balance test on adults.”