Questions for Tainya C. Clarke, Ph.D., M.P.H., Health Statistician and Lead Author on the “Early Release of Selected Estimates Based on Data From the January–September 2016 National Health Interview Survey.”
Q: What health measures does this report look at?
TC: The measures covered in this report are lack of health insurance coverage and type of coverage, having a usual place to go for medical care, obtaining needed medical care, receipt of influenza vaccination, receipt of pneumococcal vaccination, obesity, leisure–time physical activity, current cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing, general health status, personal care needs, serious psychological distress, diagnosed diabetes, and asthma episodes and current asthma. Three of these measures (lack of health insurance coverage, leisure-time physical activity, and current cigarette smoking) are directly related to Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators.
Q: How do you collect your data for these surveys?
TC: The data is collected by household interview surveys that are fielded continuously throughout the year by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Interviews are conducted in respondents’ homes. Health and socio-demographic information is collected on each member of all families residing within a sampled household. Within each family, additional information is collected from one randomly selected adult (the “sample adult”) aged 18 years or older and one randomly selected child (the “sample child”) aged 17 years or younger. NHIS data is collected at one point in time so we cannot determine causation. Data presented in this report are quarterly data and are preliminary.
Q: What are some of the findings that you would highlight in this early release report?
TC: Here are some findings from the early release report:
• The percentage of persons of all ages who had a usual place to go for medical care decreased, from 87.9% in 2003 to 85.4% in 2010, and then increased to 88.3% in January–September 2016.
• The percentage of persons who failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost increased, from 4.3% in 1999 to 6.9% in 2009 and 2010, and then decreased to 4.4% in January–September 2016.
• The percentage of adults aged 65 and over who had ever received a pneumococcal vaccination increased from 63.5% in 2015 to 67.3% in January–September 2016.
• The prevalence of obesity among U.S. adults aged 20 and over increased, from 19.4% in 1997 to 30.6% in January–September 2016.
• In the third quarter of 2016, 52.8% of U.S. adults aged 18 and over met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity (based on leisure-time activity). This was higher than the third quarter of 2015 estimate of 49.5%.
• The prevalence of current cigarette smoking among U.S. adults declined, from 24.7% in 1997 to 15.3% in 2015 and remained low through the third quarter of 2016 (15.9%).
• During January–September 2016, men were more likely to have had at least 1 heavy alcohol drinking day (31.6%) in the past year compared with women (18.6%).
• The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes among adults aged 18 and over increased, from 5.1% in 1997 to 9.2% in 2010, and has since remained stable through January–September 2016.
Q: What do the findings in this report tell us about the health of the country overall?
TC: Since 2010, the percentage of uninsured persons has decreased by almost 50% (16.0% vs 8.8%) and the percentage of persons who failed to obtain needed medical care due to cost has also shown a significant decline during the same time period (6.9% to 4.4%). These two indicators demonstrate increased access to healthcare from 2010 to September 2016.
Q: Are there any trends in this report that Americans should be concerned about?
TC: Although in the 3rd quarter of 2016, 52.8% of U.S. adults met the 2008 federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity; obesity is an epidemic that has seen a steady increase since 1997 and now affects just under one third (30.6%) of U.S. adults.