The NHIS is an annual population based survey designed to collect information on the health status and health care utilization of the non-institutionalized, civilian population of the U.S. through personal interviews in about 40,000 households per year. The NHIS has been fielded continuously since the late 1950's. The sample is designed to be representative of the U.S. and of the four main regions of the country. The current design includes an oversample of both the Black and Hispanic populations to improve the ability of NCHS to make reliable health estimates for these two groups. The NHIS includes sets of questions which are asked every year to allow monitoring of trends in basic health measures such as insurance status, prevalence of chronic conditions, injuries, and smoking. In addition, the survey includes supplemental questionnaires to gather information on other important health topics. In 1997, the NHIS underwent a major redesign in both the content and the mode of data collection. The redesigned NHIS continues to cover most aspects of health but focuses on describing the health and health care utilization of individuals. Data are now collected using computer-assisted methodology; this will greatly improve the timeliness of NHIS data.
Information on AIDS knowledge, HIV testing, and general perceptions of risk were collected from adult NHIS respondents with supplements to the NHIS from 1987 to 1995. The NHIS is unique in its ability to provide estimates of all individuals tested for HIV including those who are tested because of blood donation or who seek testing from their private health care provider. In 1997, questions on HIV testing and risk were added to the annual component of the redesigned NHIS. For 2000, the AIDS component will be expanded to collect information on knowledge and risk for tuberculosis, prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases, and additional questions on HIV testing. Thus the NHIS AIDS component provides annual data to monitor the use of HIV testing, general risk behaviors, and basic information on tuberculosis awareness and STD prevalence. This data can also be examined by the other demographic and health information collected in the NHIS. The large annual sample size of the NHIS makes it possible to examine small population subgroups; data from several years can also be combined to further increase analytic possibilities.
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