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A New Source for Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Health Data: A Work in Progress

By Adena Galinsky, Associate Service Fellow, National Center for Health Statistics

Have you been looking for nationally representative health data on Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (NHPI)? A survey in the field right now may be collecting what you need.

Many data users have searched in vain for national NHPI health data. Seventeen years after NHPI officially became its own distinct racial group for federal purposes, there is still little nationally representative data available to meet the demands for NHPI health information.

There are a number of reasons for this situation.  Because the NHPI population is relatively small (0.4% of the U.S. population is NHPI) and geographically concentrated, traditional oversampling strategies are not feasible.  Thus, most population-based surveys include only a small NHPI sample.  As a result, to protect respondent confidentiality and meet reliability standards, NHPI health statistics are often suppressed or presented in the now-outdated (and very heterogeneous) category “Asian and Pacific Islander”. 

This year, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau and the HHS Office of Minority Health, has stepped forward to fill this data gap.  The solution? A special version of NCHS’s National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The NHIS is the nation’s largest in-person household health survey and a primary tool for monitoring the health of the nation. It has been conducted annually by NCHS since 1957, and collects information on health, healthcare, health insurance, and health-related behaviors.   This special version of the NHIS is possible this year because of a new policy which permits the use of the American Community Survey’s (ACS) sample for approved federal surveys of rare populations.

The Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is the first large-scale national response to the calls for better NHPI health data. While the NHIS usually includes about 100 households each year with NHPI residents, the 2014 NHPI NHIS will survey approximately 4,000 NHPI households across the nation, identified in a single year of the ACS. The Census Bureau’s NHIS interviewers will conduct the survey in these households in conformance with standard NHIS procedures using the 2014 NHIS questionnaire.   While the survey instrument is standard-issue, outreach materials (available at and respondent letters were customized to be culturally appropriate and all interviewers were trained in cultural sensitivity and awareness. 

This project is the first-ever, large-scale national health survey to collect detailed health information on the NPHI population in all 50 states and DC.  While previous studies, including some reports using NHIS data, and many others using state and local level data, have identified NHPI health disparities, this is the first time such rich and detailed health information will be available from a large, nationally representative NHPI sample. 

The NHPI NHIS will help to meet the goal of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of improving the collection and reporting of data of NHPI populations and increasing the capacity to conduct more reliable statistical research for the NHPI population.  With the data collected, it will be possible for the NHPI communities themselves, policymakers, researchers and service providers to understand NHPI health problems, strengths and needs.

The survey is in the field through November 2014.   After data collection is completed and the data are processed-- including a thorough review to ensure that all identifying information has been stripped and that respondents and households cannot be identified-- the public use data file will be available in the fall of 2015 on the NCHS NHIS website: for any interested researcher to use.

For more information about the NHPI NHIS, see