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California Health Interview Survey (CHIS)

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Dataset Summary

CHIS is a telephone-based serial cross-sectional survey of approximately 50,000 California children, adolescents, and adults that has been conducted biannually since 2001.  It contains extensive data on a variety of health-related topics including self-reported health conditions and status, health behavior, access to care and insurance.  However, it is also rich in data on socioeconomic, behavioral, and environmental factors such as neighborhood and housing, interpersonal violence, public program eligibility, and so forth.  Many racial and ethnic groups are oversampled to obtain adequate sample sizes on a variety of minority populations, with many interviews conducted in languages other than English.  Data are free and easy to access, and an on-line tool (“Ask CHIS”) allows one to immediately identify frequencies and cross-tabulations on any variable in the core dataset.  In addition, restricted data such as precise geographic identifiers and sexual behavior are available through arrangement with the CHIS Data Access Center.

Expert comments   
The California Health Interview Survey is modeled after the National Health Interview Survey.  Many questions which could be appropriately answered in NHIS can also be answered by CHIS.  There are two reasons why CHIS may be favored over NHIS.  First, it is repeated much for frequently than NHIS so data is generally more recent and can be used to observe temporal trends occurring over a shorter period of time.  Second, it oversamples racial/ethnic minorities in the most diverse state in the nation, and goes to tremendous efforts to include non-English speakers.  It is thus particularly well suited for looking at issues related to health inequalities or differences related to race/ethnicity, especially Asian subgroups.
All variables in the CHIS dataset are self-reported.  This limits the accuracy of some of the variables.  For many questions, use of a single year's data results in unstable/unreliable estimates.  However, it is relatively straightforward to pool data from multiple years.  All data analyses must account for the complex survey methodology, which requires use of specific analytic software.  Read the accompanying analytic instructions carefully before beginning any analysis.
One concern about using CHIS is its lack of generalizability to the rest of the nation.  This is an inherent problem with the dataset.  However, I have heard a number of people argue that California data presents a "first look" at what may be happening to the nation as a whole in the coming years, particularly in terms of its sociodemographic patterns.

Dataset Details

Dataset owner / manager

CHIS data is housed at the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research in collaboration with a number of state, federal, private, and other entities (see

Study and sample characteristics   

Serial cross-sectional survey of approximately 50,000 Californians of all ages, conducted biannually since 2001.  Many ethnic groups are oversampled, and sampling weights are available to obtain population-representative data for California.

Major foci  

CHIS includes data on a variety of topics including health, health behaviors, access to care and insurance, socioeconomic status and environment, and individual and family behaviors.

Topic areas covered by CHIS in 2007 are listed below.  Other areas have been covered in previous years.

Topic areas include:
•    Health status
•    Health conditions
•    Mental health
•    Health behaviors
•    Women’s health
•    Cancer history and prevention
•    Dental health
•    Food insecurity/hunger
•    Food environment
•    Neighborhood and housing
•    Access to and use of health care
•    Health insurance
•    Public program eligibility
•    Interpersonal violence
•    Parental involvement/adult supervision
•    Child care
•    Employment
•    Income
•    Respondent characteristics

Special supplements and resources  

Geographic identifiers (i.e. county, zip code) and sensitive information such as sexual behavior are available by arrangement with the CHIS Data Access Center

Papers published  

Examples of papers published using CHIS include:

Health care access, use of services, and experiences among undocumented Mexicans and other Latinos. 
Ortega AN, Fang H, Perez VH, Rizzo JA, Carter-Pokras O, Wallace SP, Gelberg L.
Arch Intern Med. 2007 Nov 26;167(21):2354-60.

Use of health-related and cancer-specific support groups among adult cancer survivors.
Owen JE, Goldstein MS, Lee JH, Breen N, Rowland JH.
Cancer. 2007 Jun 15;109(12):2580-9.

Parental English proficiency and children's health services access.
Yu SM, Huang ZJ, Schwalberg RH, Nyman RM.
Am J Public Health. 2006 Aug;96(8):1449-55.

Disparities in colorectal cancer screening rates among Asian Americans and non-Latino whites. 
Wong ST, Gildengorin G, Nguyen T, Mock J.
Cancer. 2005 Dec 15;104(12 Suppl):2940-7.

Relationship between health status and use of screening mammography and Papanicolaou smears among women older than 70 years of age.
Walter LC, Lindquist K, Covinsky KE.
Ann Intern Med. 2004 May 4;140(9):681-8.

Dataset accessibility and cost  

Core dataset is free and available for downloading after one-time registration

Additional data is available by arrangement with the CHIS Data Access Center.
The “Ask-CHIS” on-line feature allows one to generate frequencies and cross-tabs for any variable in the core dataset; it is invaluable for obtaining a quick first-pass look at variables of interest.

Help Desk  

Data Access Center Coordinator
Phone: (310) 794-8319