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Four semitrailer trucks brought a traveling attraction to the Iowa State Fairgrounds this week, and it's not a carnival.

The white trailers hold a mobile clinic of sorts, sponsored by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, among the most valid measurements of Americans' health for more than 50 years.

The traveling team is spending this week knocking on doors around Polk County, seeking to interview people in more than 600 randomly selected households. After a confidential health-history survey at their homes, participants are asked to visit the "mobile exam center" at the fairgrounds. Adult volunteers receive $125 for their time, and children get $40 to $75 each.

"We have a lot of people who think it's a scam when we come to their door. It seems too good to be true," said Janis Eklund, study manager for the CDC-contracted team visiting Des Moines. 

The survey, Eklund said, helps the CDC uncover threats and focus public-health resources. One of its most famous contributions came in the 1970s, when CDC researchers documented the health threat posed by lead additives in paint and gasoline. Lead poisoning can cause lasting damage, including to children's brains. After the CDC survey found widespread contamination, Congress ordered the lead additives phased out.

Des Moines is one of 15 locations nationally to be hosting the project this year. The trailers will be parked in front of the Iowa State Fair Grandstand through June 2. Appointments for study participants begin Saturday. "We have everyone from brand new babies to people 100-plus come in," Eklund said. 

The visits take from about a half-hour to two-and-a-half hours. Staff members will check such things as height, weight, hearing and tooth condition. Participants will undergo scans to check their body composition and bone density. Staff members will ask them about what they eat. Blood and urine samples will be taken, packed up and sent to labs for analysis. 

Eklund said participants can decline any test or question that makes them uncomfortable. All answers and results are completely confidential, she said. If staff members discover a serious health issue during the session, they can refer participants to clinics for treatment.

A couple of months after the sessions, each participant will be mailed a report showing their test findings. The CDC will not report specific results from the Des Moines survey, but will include the findings in its continuous updates of the study's national data. 

 

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Read or Share this story: https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/health/2019/04/23/centers-for-disease-control-and-prevention-sets-up-at-iowa-state-fairgrounds-survey-iowans-health/3551944002/