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Frequently Asked Questions about the NSCH


Below, you can find answers to frequently asked questions about the 2003, 2007, and 2011/12 NSCH.
Additionally, to quickly orient yourself to the 2003, 2007, and 2011/12 NSCH content and design, see the following “fast fact” guides:

More information about the 2016 NSCH is coming soon to the DRC. In the meantime, see the MCHB website for more  information on the 2016 survey's administration, methodology, survey content, and data availability. If you would like to access more general questions about the Data Resource Center, please see our DRC FAQ page.

Common NSCH questions

What is the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH)?
Who sponsors the NSCH and NS-CSHCN (National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs)?
Why is the NSCH sometimes called “SLAITS”?
How do I receive assistance if I am having a hard time interpreting output from the NSCH? 

Availability of NSCH data

How can I get NSCH survey results?
Are the NSCH data files available to the public?
Will the NSCH be collected again?
Is state-level data available in the NSCH?
Is county or city-level data available in the NSCH?

NSCH Methodology

How are data for the NSCH collected?
Where can I find information about the sampling and administration methods used for the NSCH?

NSCH Topics

What topics are asked about in the NSCH?
I see that data is available in the NSCH on the “medical home”. What is a "medical home"?
What’s new in the 2011/12 NSCH?

NSCH measures on the DRC

How can I find out which NSCH questions were used to develop a specific child health indicator on the DRC?
Why aren’t there any data on the DRC for Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children in the NSCH?
What criteria are used to create the race/ethnicity categories for the NSCH on the DRC?
I see reference to HRSA regions in the NSCH DRC data query. What is a HRSA region?
How are NSCH unknown or missing values handled in the DRC interactive data query results?
Is it possible to look at two subgroups from the NSCH at the same time?
Is there a standard format for citing NSCH information from the DRC website in an academic paper?

Common NSCH questions

What is the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH)?

The National Survey of Children's Health is a national survey that was conducted by telephone in English and Spanish for the first time in 2003-2004. A second survey was fielded in 2007-2008, and a third survey was conducted in 2011-2012. The survey provides a broad range of information about children's health and well-being collected in a manner that allows for comparisons between states and at the national level. Telephone numbers are called at random to identify households with one or more children under 18 years old. In each household, one child was randomly selected to be the subject of the interview. The survey results are weighted to represent the population of non-institutionalized children 0-17 nationally and in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

In 2011/12, a total of 95,677 surveys were completed nationally for the NSCH, with 1,811-2,200 surveys collected per state. The survey will be conducted again in 2016, with initial data expected in 2017. Among other changes, The National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NS-CSHCN) will be integrated into the NSCH.

Who sponsors the NSCH and NS-CSHCN (National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs)?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau provides the primary funding for the surveys. The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts the survey, oversees the sampling, and produces a final public-use dataset of results.

Why is the NSCH sometimes called “SLAITS”?

The sampling and data collection for the NSCH and NS-CSHCN surveys were conducted using the “State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey” or SLAITS. This approach was developed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to collect information on a variety of health topics at the state and local levels.

How do I receive assistance if I am having a hard time interpreting output from the NSCH?

The DRC makes it easy to receive technical assistance for questions related to understanding data and using our website. Just ask us a question. The DRC Staff makes every effort to respond to your email within 2 to 3 business days.

Availability of NSCH data

How can I get NSCH survey results?

The Data Resource Center website lets you interactively browse NSCH data, and provides point-and click access to NSCH survey results in tabular and graphical formats. We also provide full NSCH datasets, and resources to analyze the data.

Are the NSCH data files available to the public?

Yes. Free, easy to use, fully cleaned and labeled data sets are available from the Data Resource Center. All NSCH questions and data shown on the DRC website, including demographic and constructed health indicators, are available in SAS and SPSS formats by clicking on the Request a Dataset  link.

In most cases, there is absolutely no cost associated with the Data Resource Center Indicator Data Sets. Exceptions may apply to for-profit organizations. The original SAS version of the data set (without constructed indicators) can also be downloaded at no cost from the NCHS website: www.cdc.gov/nchs.

Will the NSCH be collected again?

The survey will be conducted again in 2016, with initial data expected in 2017. Among other changes, the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NS-CSHCN) will be integrated into the NSCH.

Is state-level data available in the NSCH?

Yes, data is available at the state-level. NSCH results are weighted to represent the population of non-institutionalized children 0-17 nationally and in each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. In 2011/12, 1,811-2,200 surveys were collected per state, providing detailed information about each state’s child population overall, and for subgroups such as age, race/ethnicity, family structure, household income, etc..

Is county or city-level data available in the NSCH?

Currently, the public use data files for the surveys have state identifiers and a binominal variable identifying children living in the metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) with greater than 500,000 persons in each state. This indicator is suppressed whenever the population for the MSA or non-MSA area is less than 500,000 persons.

Zip codes are collected by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), however, these data are not released in the public use data file due to confidentiality restrictions. It is possible to analyze these zipcode data on site at the NCHS’ Research Data Center. Interested researchers must first submit a proposal to the Research Data Center.

NSCH Methodology

How are data for the NSCH collected?

The sampling and data collection for the National Survey of Children’s Health and the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs (NS-CSHCN) were conducted using SLAITS. SLAITS is an acronym for the State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey, and is an approach developed by the National Center for Health Statistics to quickly and consistently collect information on a variety of health topics at the state and local levels. Other national surveys collect through the SLAITS program include the National Immunization Survey and the National Survey of Early Childhood Health.

Where can I find information about the sampling and administration methods used for the NSCH?

What questions are in the surveys? Can I see the final questionnaire that was used? Who is in the survey, how are they chosen? Are the results representative of US children? Answers to these questions can be found in the Survey Methodology section of our website.

NSCH Topics

What topics are asked about in the NSCH?

The topics in the NSCH include:

  • Child and family demographics
  • Children’s physical and mental health status
  • Health insurance status and type of coverage
  • Access and use of health care services
  • Medical home
  • Early childhood-specific information (0-5 years)
  • Middle childhood and adolescent-specific information (6-17 years)
  • Family health and activities
  • Parental health status
  • Parent’s perceptions of neighborhood characteristics

For a full look at all of the questions in the surveys, please see the Guide to Survey Topics and Questions.  

I see that data is available in the NSCH on the “medical home”. What is a "medical home"?

“Medical home” refers to medical care for infants, children, and adolescents that is accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective. The medical home concept was first proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in a 1992 policy statement which was updated in 2002. The AAP definition of medical home emphasizes that a medical home is "not a building, house, or hospital, but rather an approach to providing continuous and comprehensive primary pediatric care from infancy through young adulthood, with availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from a pediatrician or physician whom families trust."

The need for an ongoing source of health care—ideally a medical home—for all children has been identified as a priority for child health policy reform at the national and local level. The US Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 and 2020 goals and objectives state that "all children with special health care needs will receive regular ongoing comprehensive care within a medical home" and multiple federal programs require that all children have access to an ongoing source of health care.

Please see our Medical Home portal for much more information on this subject.

What’s new in the 2011/12 NSCH?

We provide guides to walk you through the changes to the NSCH over 2003, 2007 and 2011-12 on our Guides to NSCH changes across survey years page.

NSCH measures on the DRC

How can I find out which NSCH questions were used to develop a specific child health indicator on the DRC?

Please see our overall FAQs page.

Why aren’t there any data on the DRC for Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children in the NSCH?

At the national level, children in these race categories are combined into a single group called OTHER. This is done because only a handful of States meet the National Center for Health Statistics’ confidentiality standards for releasing data to the public. The National Center for Health Statistics only includes individual level data for one of these groups in the publicly available data files when a group comprises 5% or more of the total child population in any given state. This standard is in place to protect against the chance of an individual child inadvertently being identified in states with relatively few children from these groups in their populations.

Both the NSCH and the NS-CSHCN ask a series of questions about the sample child’s race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Respondents are allowed to answer affirmatively to one or more categories of race. There are a number of ways that the responses to these questions can be used to create different groupings of race and/or ethnicity. For the analytic purposes of this website, children were assigned to one of five distinct categories according to the following criteria:

  • For the NSCH and the NS-CSHCN, seven states have data in the publicly released data files for the race categories of American Indian or Native Alaskan (AK, AZ, NM, MT, ND, OK, SD). Only Hawaii has data released for the category Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. In the 2003 NSCH, and both NS-CSHCN datasets Asian-specific race data is publicly available for five states (CA, NJ, NY, WA, HI). In the 2011/12 NSCH these Asian-specific data are available for ten states (CA, MD, MA, MN, NV, NJ, NY, VA, WA, HI).
  • It is important to note that when individual-level data for one or more of these race categories is not available in the publicly released survey data files for a specific state, it does not mean that the data were not collected. Rather, it indicates that one or more of these specific groups make up less than 5% of the total child population in that state. Researchers interested in analyzing the non-publicly released data for these minority groups in a state can submit a proposal to the Research Data Center (RDC) at the National Center for Health Statistics. The RDC provides access to detailed data files in a secure environment that does not jeopardize the confidentiality of respondents. For information about the RDC, click here.

Additional information on how data about children’s race/ethnicity were collected and processed for the NSCH is available in the NSCH Survey Methodology page.

What criteria are used to create the race/ethnicity categories for the NSCH on the DRC?

The child race/ethnicity groups available on this website are standard categories constructed according to the same guidelines used by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Both the NSCH and the NS-CSHCN ask a series of questions about the sample child’s race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Respondents are allowed to answer affirmatively to one or more categories of race. There are a number of ways that the responses to these questions can be used to create different groupings of race and/or ethnicity. For the analytic purposes of this website, children were assigned to one of five distinct categories according to the following criteria:

  • HISPANIC: Children identified as having Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, regardless of reported race.
  • WHITE: Non-Hispanic children with White as the only reported race category.
  • BLACK: Non-Hispanic children with Black as the only reported race category.
  • MULTI-RACIAL: Non-Hispanic children with two or more race categories reported.
  • OTHER: Non-Hispanic children identified by a single one of the following categories: Asian, American Indian, Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. See previous question for more information.

Additional information on how data about children’s race/ethnicity were collected and processed for the NSCH is available in the NSCH Survey Methodology page.

I see reference to HRSA regions in the NSCH DRC data query. What is a HRSA region?

The term “HRSA region” refers to the ten standard federal regions through which the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) organizes and conducts its administrative activities. The 50 States, the District of Columbia, and the US territories are each assigned to a specific HRSA region.

The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated or medically vulnerable. The Maternal and Child Health Bureau, which sponsors the NSCH and the NS-CSHCN, is one of five HRSA bureaus.

The ten standard Federal Regions were established by OMB (Office of Budget Management) Circular A-105, "Standard Federal Regions," in April, 1974. The Standard Federal Regions used by HRSA are:

  • REGION I: CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT
  • REGION II: NJ, NY, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
  • REGION III: DE, MD, PA, VA, WV
  • REGION IV: AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN
  • REGION V: IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI
  • REGION VI: AR, LA, NM, TX, OK
  • REGION VII: IA, KS, MO, NE
  • REGION VIII: CO, MT, ND, SD, UT, WY
  • REGION IX: AZ, CA, HI, NV (American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)
  • REGION X: AK, ID, OR, WA

How are NSCH unknown or missing values handled in the DRC interactive data query results?

Please see our overall FAQs page.

Is it possible to look at two subgroups from the NSCH at the same time?

Please see our overall FAQs page.

Is there a standard format for citing NSCH information from the DRC website in an academic paper?

Please see our overall FAQs page.