National Center for Health Statistics

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) is a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System which provides statistical information to guide actions and policies to improve the health of the American people.

National Center for Health Statistics
Agency overview
Formed1960 (1960)
JurisdictionFederal government of the United States
HeadquartersHyattsville, Maryland, U.S.
Agency executive
  • Charlie J. Rothwell, Director, National Center for Health Statistics
Parent agencyUnited States Department of Health and Human Services
WebsiteNational Center for Health Statistics

NCHS is housed within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It is headquartered at University Town Center in Hyattsville, Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C.


In 1960, the National Office of Vital Statistics and the National Health Survey merged to form the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). NCHS is one of 13 principal statistical agencies in the federal government. The Center has been located in a number of organizations within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and since 1987 has been part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

NCHS collects data with surveys, from other agencies and U.S. states, from administrative sources, and from partnerships with private health partners. NCHS collects data from birth and death records, medical records, interview surveys, and through direct physical examinations and laboratory testing. These diverse sources give perspectives to help understand the U.S. population's health, health outcomes, and influences on health.

Data collection programs

There are four major data collection programs at NCHS:

National Vital Statistics System

The National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) collects official vital statistics data based on the collection and registration of birth and death events at the state and local levels. NCHS works in partnership with the vital registration systems in each jurisdiction to produce critical information on such topics as teenage births and birth rates, prenatal care and birth weight, risk factors for adverse pregnancy outcomes, infant mortality rates, leading causes of death, and life expectancy.

National Health Interview Survey

The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) provides information on the health status of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population through confidential interviews conducted in households by Census Bureau interviewers. NHIS is the Nation's largest in-person household health survey, providing data on health status, access to and use of health services, health insurance coverage, immunizations, risk factors, and health-related behaviors.

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is NCHS' most in-depth and logistically complex survey, operating out of mobile examination centers that travel to randomly selected sites throughout the U.S. to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans. This survey combines personal interviews with standardized physical examinations, diagnostic procedures, and laboratory tests to obtain information about diagnosed and undiagnosed conditions; growth and development, including overweight and obesity; diet and nutrition; risk factors; and environmental exposures.

National Health Care Surveys

The National Health Care Surveys provide information about the organizations and providers that supply health care, the services they render, and the patients they serve. Provider sites surveyed include physician offices, community health centers, ambulatory surgery centers, hospital outpatient and emergency departments, inpatient hospital units, residential care facilities, nursing homes, home health care agencies, and hospice organizations. The National Health Care Surveys help study resource use, including staffing; quality of care, including patient safety; clinical management of specific conditions; disparities in the use and quality of care; and diffusion of health care technologies, including drugs, surgical procedures, and information technologies.

Other data collection programs

In addition to its major data collection programs, NCHS conducts targeted surveys and augmenting survey data where possible. They conduct the National Survey of Family Growth, that obtains information on factors affecting birth and pregnancy rates, adoptions, and maternal and infant health, and supplements the information obtained on birth certificates collected through the National Vital Statistics System. NCHS's State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS) produces state-level data on such topics as the health of children with special needs, to meet the data needs of our colleagues in HHS' Maternal and Child Health Bureau and elsewhere. NCHS's National Immunization Survey is done collaboration with other CDC offices in Atlanta. NCHS's National Death Index creates a longitudinal component to other routine data systems. NCHS's Questionnaire Design Research Laboratory develops and test survey and data collection instruments for use by NCHS and other federal agencies and research organizations.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document "About NCHS: Celebrating 50 Years".

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