AMA Surveys Adults on Health Habits But Drops Plan for Health Index

Annual index of the health of the American population

From 1997 to 1998, the American Medical Association (AMA), Chicago, and its subcontractor, the Gallup Organization, designed, implemented and disseminated two national telephone surveys on the public's health habits, one of young adults and the other of adults conducted by Gallup.

The Gallup surveys were designed to fill gaps in information from existing sources of health data (such as the National Health Interview Survey, the National Nursing Home Survey, and the National Youth Risk Behavior) for the national health index.

The AMA also developed an initial design for an index of health indicators However, delays in receiving federal data, internal reorganization, and downsizing prevented the AMA from completing the index. AMA staff realized also that the Healthy People 2010 health index, then in development, would make the AMA's unnecessary.

Key Findings

  • Gallup completed the health surveys, which found that the public appears to be responsive to the need for physical check-ups and various screening tests, but they remain overweight, stressed, and caught up in bad habits. Specifically, the survey found the following:
    • Some 80 percent of Americans report having seen a physician within the previous 12 months, while 64 percent visited a dentist.
    • High cholesterol is a concern for many: within the past two years, 25 percent of individuals aged 12 or older have made dietary changes to lower blood cholesterol.
    • Many people are responding to the need to screen for various health problems, although there is still much room for improvement.
    • Most adults are generally satisfied with the quality of their sex lives. Satisfaction gradually decreases with age, dropping dramatically by age 65.
    • America continues to be a nation in which weight problems abound. Based on the Body Mass Index, half of Americans, aged 12 and older, are overweight, with 15 percent grossly overweight.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided a $322,631 grant to support the project between August 1997 and October 1998.