HRSA funds and directs the National Survey of Children’s Health, providing in-depth data that are essential to understanding the health status and health services needs of children. The resulting data shapes state and national-level policies and programs to improve their health and that of their families and communities.
The survey collects information from a random sample of U.S. households and includes two parts:
Part One: A brief initial survey determines if children are present, and if so, the number, age, sex, and special health care need status of each child.
Part Two: Some households who indicated that they have children receive a second longer survey about the health and well-being of one of the children in the household.
Choosing to participate in the National Survey of Children’s Health ultimately benefits you, your children, your family, and all families in the U.S. as your response informs important programs, including:
- Title V Maternal and Child Health block grant, which funds programs that help mothers and children in every state. Your responses to the survey help establish baseline estimates for the block grant performance measures and data for your state’s needs assessment.
- Healthy People 2020, which provides science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans. Your participation in the survey helps HRSA develop maternal and child health companion objectives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who sponsors the survey?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau sponsors and provides the primary funding and oversight for the survey.
Why is the U.S. Census Bureau involved?
The U.S. Census Bureau conducts the survey, oversees the sampling, and produces a final data set of survey results. Although the census on population and housing, which is conducted every ten years, is the most well-known, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts many other surveys and employ experts in data collection.
How long has the NSCH been collecting data?
Since 2003, the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) has provided both national and state-level prevalence estimates for a variety of child health and health care indicators. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau also fielded a “sister” survey, the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NS-CSHCN), which assessed the prevalence and impact of special health care needs among children in the U.S., and evaluated changes over time.
From 2016 onward, the purpose of the NSCH will remain the same, but the two individual surveys will be combined into a single survey conducted every year.
Information about and data from the previous NSCH and NS-CSHCN can be accessed through the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics or the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative's Data Resource Center.
Why was I selected?
The U.S. Census Bureau chose your address, not you personally, from a scientifically selected sample of addresses from a list of ALL residential addresses in the country. Only a sample is selected because interviewing every address in the country would be costly and would take too long.
How was my address/household/child chosen?
Your address was randomly selected from all of the home addresses in the nation, using scientific sampling methods. The sample is designed so that surveys of only a few thousand people will accurately describe the health experiences of children in the United States.
Do I have to participate?
Survey participation is voluntary; however, your participation is very important because each person interviewed represents thousands of others. Not participating in the survey may mean that children like yours are underrepresented in the resulting data. Many people find participating in the survey to be interesting and enjoyable. You may choose not to answer any question for any reason.
What kinds of questions will you ask?
Survey topics include:
- Child and family demographics
- Children’s physical and mental health status
- Child’s health and functional status; including current conditions and functioning difficulties experienced due to health conditions
- Health insurance status, type, and adequacy of coverage
- Access and use of health care services
- Preventive medical and dental care, and specialty services received
- Medical home access
- Early childhood-specific information (0-5 years)
- Middle childhood and adolescent-specific information (6-17 years)
- Transition to adult healthcare services (12-17 years)
- Family health and activities
- Impact of child’s health on family
- Parental health status
- Parent’s perceptions of neighborhood characteristics
- Access to community-based services
What if I do not know an exact answer to a question?
Ask someone else in your household. They might know the answer. If no one knows or there is no one else in your household, please provide your best guess or estimate. If you need clarification on what a specific question is asking, please call the U.S. Census Bureau toll-free at 1-800-845-8241 or email us at email@example.com.
How long will it take?
The first part of the survey contains screening questions, which will take less than five minutes to complete. If your household screens into the second part of the survey, you will then be asked more detailed questions about one specific child within the household, which should take no longer than 30 minutes depending on your answers.
How is my privacy protected?
The information that you provide is used solely for statistical purposes. All U.S. Census Bureau employees take an oath of confidentiality and are subject to fines or imprisonment for improperly disclosing information provided by respondents. Names and addresses are removed from all forms, and are not included in any statistical release. Also, the National Survey of Children’s Health NEVER asks for:
- your Social Security number
- your personal information via email
- money or donations
- credit card information
How can I verify that the survey materials are legitimate?
When contacted about the National Survey of Children’s Health, a survey representative can always provide you with his or her name and interviewer code to confirm employment with the U.S. Census Bureau. To verify that the phone call or correspondence is legitimate, please call the U.S. Census Bureau at 1-800-523-3205 and give them the name and/or interviewer code.
Why do you need my name and telephone number?
Although your name and telephone number are not required, we would like this information in case we need to follow-up with you at a later date.
For this survey, is it safe to provide my information over the Internet?
Yes. Your information is encrypted at all times. That way, personal data sent to your browser and data you send back is virtually impossible to decipher in the unlikely event it was intercepted by an unauthorized party.
How do I recover my Web survey username/password?
If you have lost or misplaced your Web username and/or password, please call the U.S. Census Bureau toll-free at 1-800-845-8241 for assistance.
When will new data be released?
Data from the newly redesigned 2016 NSCH will be released in late Spring/early Summer of 2017. Starting in 2017, new national-level data will be released each year. The data release in summer 2017 will include state-level data; however, due to sample size limitations it will not be possible to release state-level data for all variables and subgroups of children until 2018. Subsequently, new and comprehensive state-level estimates will be available every 2-3 years.
How often are data collected?
The NSCH is fielded annually. The previous iterations of this survey were conducted every four years. To meet the needs of data users, a redesign of the survey was undertaken in order to support the release of new national-level data each year and to produce comprehensive state-level estimates every 2-3 years.
Where can I find copies of the questionnaire?
You can find copies of the household screener and age-specific questionnaires below:
- Household Screener (PDF - 1.3 MB)
- National Survey of Children’s Health Questionnaire – Children Ages 0-5 (PDF - 1.2 MB)
- National Survey of Children’s Health Questionnaire – Children Ages 6-11 (PDF - 1.2 MB)
- National Survey of Children’s Health Questionnaire – Children Ages 12-17 (PDF - 1.2 MB)
Why was the NSCH “redesigned?”
An increase in the number of households without landline telephones has made collecting data using the previous NSCH’s telephone-based design increasingly difficult. In the previous implementations of the survey , the NSCH was conducted as a land-line telephone survey using a method known as “random-digit- dialing”. This method ensured that all households with land-line telephone numbers were included in the sampling frame, and that the sampled households were distributed geographically. The 2011/12 NSCH included a cell phone sample in order to account for those children who live in households without landline telephones; however, this strategy was not a permanent solution due to increased costs, lower response rates, and poor matching of children to the state in which they live. Since the majority of children in the United States now live in cell phone-only households (PDF), a redesign of the survey was necessary
What happened to the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NS-CSHCN)?
When HRSA/MCHB undertook the redesign of the NSCH, they asked experts to consider the content of both the NSCH and the NS-CSHCN in order to support an annual fielding of a single survey. The 2016 NSCH was purposefully designed to maintain as many of the original items from both surveys as possible. Importantly, the revised NSCH contains the Children with Special Health Care Needs Screener to support the continued availability of detailed, state-level estimates on the prevalence and impact of special health care needs among US children and families. The Data Resource Center for Child & Adolescent Health website will provide comprehensive and higher-level crosswalks between the redesigned NSCH, previous NSCH, and previous NS-CSHCN to help users understand which items have been maintained, altered, or dropped.
How will the new data be collected?
To oversee the new sampling and administration of the redesigned NSCH, MCHB has partnered with the United States Census Bureau. Households with children will be randomly selected from among all of the home addresses in the nation, using scientific sampling methods. Potential participants will be mailed an invitation to complete both a household screener and child-level questionnaire online using a secure, confidential website. Additionally, participants may choose to complete a mailed, paper version of the household screener and questionnaire in lieu of the web-based materials.
Why are data from the NSCH important?
The NSCH was first administered in 2003 as a comprehensive national and state-level survey on the health and well-being of children and their families. The data collected in the NSCH has been critical to providing states with unique data for Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant needs assessments and funding applications, state-level planning and program development, federal policy and program development, and general scientific research. NSCH data related to Title V National Performance Measures, National Outcome Measures, and emerging priority topics will be particularly critical to Title V and program leaders working in these fields. These data are also valuable to families, child health advocates, and policymakers. The newly redesigned survey will continue to support these important uses of the data and much more.
How can I get ready to work with the new data?
The Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health (DRC) contains a wealth of information on the most recent NSCH (2011/12) and NS-CSHCN (2009/10) surveys. You can request clean and coded versions of these datasets or access results directly via an interactive data query to learn more about the health and wellbeing of children, children with special health care needs, and their families for your state or across the nation. You can also find valuable information on how to create local area estimates (PDF) using national and State-level data from the 2011/2012 NSCH. Coming later in the Summer/Fall of 2016, the DRC will also host a newly-redesigned Title V portal with information on the new National Performance and Outcome Measures to support grant writing and other data needs.
Will it be possible to conduct trend analyses using data from 2016?
Due to changes in the survey’s mode of data collection and sampling frame, as well as adjustments to item wording where necessary, it will not be possible to compare estimates from the redesigned survey to those from previous iterations of the NSCH or NS-CSHCN or to conduct related trend analyses. The redesigned NSCH will support trend analyses beginning with data from 2016.