At A Glance

Noteworthy Characteristics

  • Collects data on childhood obesity, including state reports of childhood obesity.
  • Sample sizes sufficient for state-level analyses in every state.
  • Survey focuses on Healthy People goals.
  • Data are used to estimate national and state-level prevalence for a wide range of physical, emotional, and behavioral child health indicators in combination with information on the child’s family context and neighborhood environment.
  • Datasets may be used to stratify results by children of different ages, race/ethnicity groups, special health care needs status, insurance type, and more.



To collect data on health, health behaviors, family, and the neighborhood environment for children in the United States (U.S.).

Target Population

Noninstitutionalized children and adolescents, ages 0 to 17 years, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Began in 2003. Conducted every 4 years. Most recent year conducted was 2018.

2003, 2007, and 2011/12:

after 2016: and


Maternal and Child Health Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Special Note(s)

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) oversaw the sampling and telephone interviews for the 2003 and 2007 surveys.

The NSCH alternates with the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs. Other national surveys collected through the State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS) program include the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs, the National Immunization Survey (NIS), and the National Survey of Early Childhood Health. The National Immunization Survey provides the initial sampling frame for the SLAITS surveys.

Easy-to-use results from NSCH are available.

Going forward, the National Survey of Children’s Health and the National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs will be combined into one survey, which will be administered by the Census Bureau. TThe 2016 round of survey collection was posted in 2017. Future updates can be found here.

Data from the redesigned 2016 NSCH were released in September 2017. Starting with the 2017 NSCH, new national-level data will be released each year for the foreseeable future. The 2016 NSCH data release in September 2017 includes some state-level estimates; however, due to sample size limitations it may not be possible to release state-level estimates for all variables and subgroups of children annually. Subsequently, new and comprehensive state-level estimates will be available every 2-3 years.


Sample Design

Cross-sectional, random, multi-stage, stratified, probability sampling. Oversampling of major urban areas. Learn more.

Sample Size

Approximately 95,600 children and adolescents in 2012. Approximately 1,850 parents of children and youth were surveyed in each state.

The 2016 sample design: A sample of 364,150 household addresses was selected from the Census Master Address File (MAF).

Special Note(s)

The 2011/12 sampling frame included approximately 5% of completed cases by mobile phone.

Random State and Local Area Integrated Telephone Survey (SLAITS) conducted in English, Spanish, and several Asian languages. National Immunization Survey (NIS) sampling frame was used for the 2007 NSCH.

Key Variables


NameMethods of Assessment
Child receipt of free or reduced-cost breakfast and/or lunch at schoolInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Child’s race/ethnicityInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Child’s sexInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Disability (general; hearing; movement/physical; vision)Interview/questionnaire
Health insurance status and type of coverageInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Neighborhood/community characteristics relevant to socioeconomic statusInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Number of household membersInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Parental employmentInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Receipt of public assistance and food stamps by household membersInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)


NameMethods of Assessment
Early childhood (0-5 years): Type of first food givenInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Early childhood (0-5 years): Whether child was breastfedInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Number of days in past week that family ate a meal togetherInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)

Physical Activity-Related

NameMethods of Assessment
Middle childhood/adolescence (6-17 years): Amount of time child spends in recreational computer use, television/video watching, video gaming on a week dayInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Middle childhood/adolescence (6-17 years): Family rules about television viewingInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Middle childhood/adolescence (6-17 years): Number of days child engaged in vigorous physical activity for at least 20 minutes during the past weekInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Middle childhood/adolescence (6-17 years): Participation in sportsInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Middle childhood/adolescence (6-17 years): Television in child’s bedroomInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Neighborhood characteristics relevant to children’s activities (e.g., supervision by neighbors, cohesion, safety of residence and school)Interview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Neighborhood environment relevant to children’s physical activity (e.g., presence of sidewalks, parks/playground, recreation centers)Interview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Number of days parents/caregivers engaged in vigorous physical activity for at least 20 minutes during the past weekInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)


NameMethods of Assessment
NapsInterview/questionnaire with parent
Physical sleep environment: Screen use and proximityInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep disordered breathing: Sleep position (back, side, etc.)Interview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep duration and quantity: Total sleep time during weekends/holidaysInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep duration and quantity: Total sleep time during workdays/schooldaysInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep duration and quantity: Frequency of sufficient sleepInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Sleep timing on workdays/schooldaysInterview/questionnaire with parent
Sleep timing and regularity: Sleep timing on workdays/schooldaysInterview/questionnaire with parent
Social determinants of health (e.g., income, racial discrimination)Interview/questionnaire with parent


NameMethods of Assessment
Child’s birth weight (0-5 years only)Interview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)
Child’s weight and height at time of surveyInterview/questionnaire (parent/caregiver)

Data Access and Cost

Data Availability

Download data files for the 2011/2012 Survey. Download data files for the 2007 Survey. Find SAS input formats for these data.

Obtain coded and cleaned datasets, which include hundreds of derived variables, free of charge from the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative (CAHMI).


Free of charge for public-use data.
Restricted data must be accessed through the National Center for Health Statistics Research Data Center, which requires a set-up fee of $750 and a minimum access fee of $300. Learn more.

Special Note(s)

Obtain lists of NSCH restricted variables. Learn more about the various modes of restricted data access.
Investigators must submit proposals to the Research Data Center to obtain restricted use data. Learn more about developing and submitting proposals.

The most recent year for which data are available is not necessarily the most recent year this survey was conducted.


Geocode Variable(s)

State, zip code (restricted), Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) county identifier (restricted).

Existing Linkages

None found.

Special Note(s)

Data on 10 HRSA regions, as well as RUCA (Rural-Urban Commuting Area) classification can also be obtained through the Data Resource Center.

Selected Publications

Physical Activity-Related

Kim J. Are physical education-related state policies and schools' physical education requirement related to children's physical activity and obesity? Journal of School Health 2012; Jun;82(6):268-76.


Akinbami LJ, Ogden CL. Childhood overweight prevalence in the United States: The impact of parent-reported height and weight. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2009;17(8):1574-1580.

Bethell C, Simpson L, Stumbo S, Carle AC, Gombojav N. National, state, and local disparities in childhood obesity. Health Affairs (Millwood) 2010;29(3):347-356.

Echeverría SE, Vélez-Valle E, Janevic T, Prystowsky A. The role of poverty status and obesity on school attendance in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health 2014; 55(3): 402-407.

Hennessy E, Oh A, Agurs-Collins T, Chriqui JF, Mâsse LC, Moser RP, Perna F. State-level school competitive food and beverage laws are associated with children’s weight status. Journal of School Health 2014; 84(9): 609-616.

Li J, Hooker NH. Childhood obesity and schools: Evidence from the national survey of children's health. Journal of School Health 2010;80(2):96-103.

Nanney MS, Nelson T, Wall M, Haddad T, Kubik M, Laska MN, Story M. State school nutrition and physical activity policy environments and youth obesity. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2010;38(1):9-16.

Nesbit KC, Kolobe TH, Sisson SB, Ghement IR. A model of environmental correlates of adolescent obesity in the United States. Journal of Adolescent Health 2014; 55(3): 394-401.

Oh AY, Hennessey E, McSpadden KE, Perna FM. Contextual influences on weight status among impoverished adolescents: Neighborhood amenities for physical activity and state laws for physical education time requirements. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2015; 12(6): 875-878.

Singh GK, Kogan MD, van Dyck PC, Siahpush M. Racial/ethnic, socioeconomic, and behavioral determinants of childhood and adolescent obesity in the United States: Analyzing independent and joint associations. Annals of Epidemiology 2008;18(9):682-695.

Singh GK, Kogan MD, van Dyck PC. Changes in state-specific childhood obesity and overweight prevalence in the United States from 2003 to 2007. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 2010;164(7):598-607.

Singh GK, Siahpush M, Kogan MD. Neighborhood socioeconomic conditions, built environments, and childhood obesity. Health Affairs (Millwood ) 2010;29(3):503-512.

Singh GK, Siahpush M, Kogan MD. Rising social inequalities in U.S. childhood obesity, 2003-2007. Annals of Epidemiology 2010;20(1):40-52.

Sisson SB, Broyles ST, Baker BL, Katzmarzyk PT. Screen time, physical activity, and overweight in U.S. youth: National Survey of Children's Health 2003. Journal of Adolescent Health 2010;47(3):309-311.

Sisson SB, Sheffield-Morris A, Spicer P, Lora K, Latorre C. Influence of family structure on obesogenic behaviors and placement of bedroom TVs of American children: National Survey of Children's Health 2007. Preventive Medicine 2014; 61: 48-53.