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Health Information National Trends Survey®
Part of NCI's Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences

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Frequently Asked Questions

What HINTS Does

HINTS collects nationally representative data routinely about the American public's use of cancer-related information. The survey:

  • Provides updates on changing patterns, needs, and information opportunities in health
  • Identifies changing communications trends and practices
  • Assesses cancer information access and usage
  • Provides information about how cancer risks are perceived
  • Offers a testbed to researchers to test new theories in health communication

How HINTS Data Are Used

The HINTS data collection program was created to monitor changes in the rapidly evolving field of health communication. Survey researchers are using the data to understand how adults 18 years and older use different communication channels, including the Internet, to obtain vital health information for themselves and their loved ones. Program planners are using the data to overcome barriers to health information usage across populations, and obtaining the data they need to create more effective communication strategies. Finally, social scientists are using the data to refine their theories of health communication in the information age and to offer new and better recommendations for reducing the burden of cancer throughout the population. Hints data are available for public use.

NCI Presentations

The following presentations were presented to researchers at the National Cancer Institute. They are provided here as background to the survey and the analytic methodologies appropriate for nationally weighted probability samples.

  • HINTS Presentation to NCI Director, presented 12-18-2003 PDF (2.3 MB)
  • Analyzing Weighted Survey Data, presented 2-9-2004 PDF (83 KB)
  • Webinar: HINTS: Progress, Plans and Potentials, presented 6-27-2007 WMV (7.2 MB)

HINTS Users Meeting (January 9-10, 2014)

Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the meeting focused on research using HINTS data and the application of HINTS research to public health and clinical care.

HINTS Sponsors

HINTS was developed by the Health Communication and Informatics Research Branch (HCIRB) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) as an outcome of the National Cancer Institute's Extraordinary Opportunity in Cancer Communications. To learn more about communication and informatics research at NCI, please visit the HCIRB and DCCPS Web sites.

For additional information about the HINTS program, please use our contact form or email

Interested in International or Community HINTS?

Are you a researcher interested in conducting a HINTS-like health communication survey in your community or country? If so, you are welcome to use HINTS items from our publicly available survey instruments for your data collection effort. The NCI HINTS program encourages and supports any opportunity to standardize measures and promote data harmonization for health communication research.

We are aware of several international health communication surveys that utilize HINTS items, as well as local-level surveys that do so, such as those conducted by NCI-designated cancer centers as part of the Population Health Assessment in Cancer Center Catchment Areas P30 administrative supplement initiative. We hope that the NCI HINTS program can continue to be a leader in health-related survey research, provide quality measures for others to utilize, and be an exemplar program for other data collection efforts to follow.

Members of the NCI HINTS management team are available to provide limited consultation to you and your research team on your data collection effort. After you have reviewed our publicly available materials including the methodology report, instrument, and data from the most recent HINTS cycle, please contact us directly at and someone from the NCI HINTS management team will get back to you about providing in-kind consultation to your study. These activities are not managed by a coordinating center, so you can expect to hear directly from NCI HINTS staff.

Due to limited resources and competing priorities, any further consultation and collaboration will be decided on a case-by-case basis after an initial meeting with you and your research team. Because your health communication survey is not initiated, led, monitored, or funded by NCI, neither the HINTS name (in full or acronym) nor the HINTS logo should be used for these unaffiliated projects. The name Health Information National Trends Survey is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and the HINTS acronym and logo are service marks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Moreover, while you are welcome to use HINTS items, the NCI HINTS instruments should not be duplicated for external use.


HINTS Data Terms of Use

It is of utmost importance to ensure the confidentiality of survey participants. Every effort has been made to exclude identifying information on individual respondents from the computer files. Some demographic information such as sex, race, etc., has been included for research purposes. NCI expects that users of the data set will adhere to the strictest standards of ethical conduct for the analysis and reporting of nationally collected survey data. It is mandatory that all research results be presented/published in a manner that protects the integrity of the data and ensures the confidentiality of participants.

In order for the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to provide a public-use or another version of data to you, it is necessary that you agree to the following provisions.

  1. You will not present/publish data in which an individual can be identified. Publication of small cell sizes should be avoided.
  2. You will not attempt to link nor permit others to link the data with individually identified records in another database.
  3. You will not attempt to learn the identity of any person whose data are contained in the supplied file(s).
  4. If the identity of any person is discovered inadvertently, then the following should be done;
    1. no use will be made of this knowledge,
    2. the HINTS Program staff will be notified of the incident,
    3. no one else will be informed of the discovered identity.
  5. You will not release nor permit others to release the data in full or in part to any person except with the written approval of the HINTS Program staff.
  6. If accessing the data from a centralized location on a time sharing computer system or LAN, you will not share your logon name and password with any other individuals. You will also not allow any other individuals to use your computer account after you have logged on with your logon name and password.
  7. For all software provided by the HINTS Program, you will not copy, distribute, reverse engineer, profit from its sale or use, or incorporate it in any other software system.
  8. The source of information should be cited in all publications. The appropriate citation is associated with the data file used. Please see Suggested Citations in the Download HINTS Data section of this Web site, or the Readme.txt associated with the ASCII text version of the HINTS data.
  9. Analyses of large HINTS domains usually produce reliable estimates, but analyses of small domains may yield unreliable estimates, as indicated by their large variances. The analyst should pay particular attention to the standard error and coefficient of variation (relative standard error) for estimates of means, proportions, and totals, and the analyst should report these when writing up results. It is important that the analyst realizes that small sample sizes for particular analyses will tend to result in unstable estimates.
  10. You may receive periodic e-mail updates from the HINTS administrators.