Future statistics about what Americans eat, their blood counts and even how well their taste buds and noses function will draw on information being collected over the next couple months from Saratoga County residents.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a program of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has set up shop in a suite of four specialized trailers outside Hudson Valley Community College’s TEC-SMART building on Hermes Road.
About 350 Saratoga County residents are going to be examined starting this morning, with the information contributing to future national statistics on public health — the kind of information the government uses in deciding on new prevention and education programs.
Saratoga County is one of 15 counties across the country that National Health Survey teams will visit this year. It is the only New York state county being surveyed.
“This county represents every other county like it,” said Janice Eklund, the study manager. “The counties are really just drawn out of a hat.”
Health survey screeners have been getting in touch with randomly selected households across the county since mid-May, as part of the process by which people are selected to be examined.
The process is anonymous. The randomly selected addresses — about 900 of them — have received postcards and letters, and are being visited by someone doing a brief initial interview.
Based on their demographic profile, some of those people are being selected for in-depth home health and nutrition interviews, and then a battery of exams at the trailer complex.
At the complex, which was opened to reporters Friday, a doctor, dietitians and a variety of examination technicians will perform the health screenings. A complete set of blood tests — testing for dozens of blood characteristics and traces of contaminants like lead and PCBs — is done on those willing to have blood taken.
The type of tests done will vary depending on the age of the person being examined, Eklund said. Adults may have their senses of taste and smell tested and receive a bone density scan that can detect signs of thinning bones.
There is also a dental exam.
“It’s just like a dentist visit without the X-rays,” said Dr. Stuart Martin, the on-site dentist.
Martin will use a fluorosis camera — one of a handful of such devices in the world, useful to determine how much fluoride is contained in someone’s dental enamel.
“A little is good, but too much is bad. Teeth become brittle,” he said.
The information being collected could be used to recommend water fluoridation levels for different regions of the country, based on the amount of natural fluoride in the environment, he said.
Adults who participate in the federal survey are being paid $125 for a roughly three-hour exam, plus a transportation allowance. Those who also wear an activity monitor for the following week will receive $40 more, and those who agree to collect their urine for a day will receive an additional $50.
Those who participate will receive free copies of their medical exam information — the tests, according to the CDC, would cost more than $4,500 if done through private doctors or hospitals.
About 5,000 people will be examined nationally this year, as part of a federal research effort that’s been going on for the last 50 years.
“The survey is a unique resource for health information, and without it we would lack important knowledge about major health conditions,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden said in a statement.
Examinations at the Malta site will continue through July 28.
The individual examination results, gathered as a whole, offer an accurate picture of the nation’s health by a variety of measures, officials said.
“You can kind of think of the sampling as a patchwork quilt,” said Catherine Novak, director of the Malta mobile exam center. “When all the pieces come together, they make a complete picture.”
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