Since 2008, the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW) has gathered vital baseline information to present a current and comprehensive picture of the health of the residents of Wisconsin. SHOW gathers data on health and a wide range of health determinants including social and economic factors, health care access, mental health, quality of life, discrimination and neighborhood perceptions.

Surveys are complemented by physical measurements including height, weight, blood pressure and lung function. The program also collects biosamples for a wide range of research.

Sampling strategy and recruitment

SHOW conducts household-based examination surveys on representative samples of general population (non-institutionalized) Wisconsin residents in urban, suburban and rural settings across the state.

Individuals living in the selected households receive an advanced mailing to describe the project and trained field staff make visits to screen, enumerate and recruit individuals in the household. Starting in 2019, individuals can also voluntarily provide contact information at community-based events. These individuals are screened as well before invited to participate.Informed-consent is completed at the scheduled, in-home return visit.

SHOW has recruited over 6,000 residents to participate to-date.

Note: Of the eleven Native American tribes in Wisconsin, only the Menominee Tribe has granted permission for the survey to be conducted on their land. As a result, all of the residences on tribal land, with the exception of the Menominee Reservation, have so far been excluded from SHOW sampling frames.

2008-13 survey

From 2008-13, a new, independent sample was identified each year, using a two-stage, probability-based stratified cluster sampling approach.

Primary sampling unit: census block group, stratified by poverty, randomly selected with probability proportional to size

Secondary sampling unit: households, randomly selected 

Surveys were completed among adults 21-74 years of age.

2014-16 survey

For the next 3 years, 2014-16, a three-stage sampling approach was taken, adding county, stratified by mortality as the first-stage of the approach. Milwaukee and Dane counties were selected with certainty due to their large size relative to the other 70 counties; 10 counties in total were selected for visits (in 11 stands) over a three-year period.

Surveys were completed among persons of all ages, including children and adults.

2017 survey

In 2017, a longitudinal sample of adults was identified among prior 2008-13 SHOW cohort members. Children living in these households were also invited to participate in the survey.

2019 convenience sampling

To focus on collecting survey information from underrepresented groups, SHOW revised their recruitment methods to include convenience sampling at community events. Staff provided potential participants information about all survey components, as well as address any questions regarding the process. Those interested could voluntarily fill out a contact sheet to be screened via telephone at a later time. Once determined to qualify for the study, staff scheduled the in-home visit and sample collection appointment.

Children in show

Beginning in 2014, children were included in the SHOW sample. To-date, over 700 children zero to 17 years of age have participated in the survey.

A child has his height measured

Parents or guardians are asked questions about their child’s health and functioning and respiratory health. They also answer questions for children under 12 years of age on physical activity, screen time, diet and sleep. Children 12-17 years old are asked these questions directly.

Physical measurements include height, weight, waist and hip measures for children three years and older. Blood pressure, lung function and accelerometry are performed with children six to 17 years of age.

Data collected about children

Questionnaires or measurements Ages when parent is proxyAge when data is collected with childQuestions
Physical activity 3-11 12-17 Physical activity, school attendance, school facilities use and physical education class frequency
Screen time 3-11 12-17 Sedentary behavior and screen time
Diet 3-11 12-17 Eating habits (fruit, fruit juice, vegetable intake, type of milk, sweetened beverages, school lunches, meals away from home
Sleep: infant 0-2   Sleep habits, duration, quality
Sleep: younger children 3-11   Sleep habits, duration, napping, quality
Sleep: older children   12-17 Sleep duration, napping, quality, sleep disorders, sleepiness
Health and functioning 0-17   Health and functioning instrument includes questions on conditions affecting behavior, learning, growth and physical development
Respiratory health 0-17   Questions on respiratory health and disease including wheezing, asthma diagnosis and treatment
Weight   3-17 Measured twice
Height   3-17 Measure twice using a stadiometer
Waist   3-17 Measure twice
Hip   3-17 Measured twice
Blood pressure   6-17 Seated blood pressure, measured three times
Lung function   6-17 Spirometer
Accelerometry   6-17 ActiGraph worn on wrist for eight days

Physical examination and measurements

Field team members are trained and certified to perform physical measurements.


  • Weight is recorded in kilograms and is measured using a digital scale.
  • Height is recorded in centimeters and is measured using a stadiometer.
  • Additional measures include hip and waist circumference using a measuring tape.
A woman prepares to have her blood drawn

Blood pressure and pulse

Blood pressure and pulse are measured using the Omron HBP-1300 digital blood pressure monitor. Arm circumference is measured for appropriate cuff size and three measurements of blood pressure (in sitting position) and pulse are taken one minute apart and recorded.

Lung function

Lung function is determined using spirometry, which measures lung capacity. The test is performed on participants after 13 screening questions are asked to rule out any contraindications to determine if spirometry is safe for the participant.

SHOW uses the Jaeger AM1+ electronic peak flow meter handheld device and a filtered mouthpiece that fits over the device sensor. It provides measurements in liters per minute. The test is performed at least three times. Two variables (FEV1 and FVC) are recorded:

  • FEV1: Forced Expiratory Volume in one second is the amount exhaled in the first second.
  • FVC: Forced Vital Capacity is the total amount exhaled.

Physical activity and sleep

SHOW collects subjective data on physical activity and sleep via questionnaires since its inception. Objective measures on physical activity and sleep are also being collected since 2014. SHOW uses ActiGraph collection devices. Data are processed and analyzed using ActiLife sotware.

Adult participants wear wrist and hip ActiGraphs for eight days. Children six years of age or older are asked to wear a wrist ActiGraph for eight days.

Please contact us for more details if you are interested in working with accelerometry data.