Critical Data at the Crossroads: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Faces Growing Challenges

Critical Data at the Crossroads: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Faces Growing Challenges

Published: May 01, 2023
Publisher: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 117, issue 5

Christine L. Taylor

Jennifer H. Madans

Nancy N. Chapman

Catherine E. Woteki

Ronette R. Briefel

Johanna T. Dwyer

Joyce M. Merkel

Charles J. Rothwell

David M. Klurfeld

David S. Seres

Paul M. Coates

The NHANES needs urgent attention to ensure its future, which is facing emerging challenges associated with data collection, stagnant funding that has undercut innovation, and the increased call for granular data for subpopulations and groups at risk. The concerns do not rest merely on securing more funding but focus on the need for a constructive review of the survey to explore new approaches and identify appropriate change. This white paper, developed under the auspices of the ASN’s Committee on Advocacy and Science Policy (CASP), is a call to the nutrition community to advocate for and support activities to prepare NHANES for future success in a changing nutrition world. Furthermore, because NHANES is much more than a nutrition survey and serves the needs of many in health fields and even commercial arenas, effective advocacy must be grounded in alliances among the survey’s diverse stakeholders so that the full range of expertise and interests can engage. This article highlights the complicated nature of the survey along with key overarching challenges to underscore the importance of a measured, thoughtful, comprehensive, and collaborative approach to considering the future of NHANES. Starting-point questions are identified for the purposes of focusing dialog, discussion forums, and research. In particular, the CASP calls for a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine study on NHANES to articulate an actionable framework for NHANES going forward. With a well-informed and integrated set of goals and recommendations that could be provided by such a study, a secure future for NHANES is more readily achievable.

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