The first German Health Survey, a representative study of the health status of the population in unified Germany, was started in October 1997. In this project which is being carried out by the Robert Koch Institute on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Health about 7,200 study participants aged between 18 and 79 are going through a medical check-up and are interviewed as to health-relevant issues. The German National Health Survey consists of a core survey and supplementary modules. These modules are, for the most part, carried out in subsamples of the study population. They partially have been designed and co-financed by cooperating institutions of the RKI. This time, the opportunity given to the individual Länder to increase the size of the sample was realized by Bavaria. This practised principle of a modular structure and co-financing may be regarded as a model and serve as an example for the cost effective implementation of such extensive health surveys. As a result, the German National Health Examination Survey will yield information enabling the RKI to deliver relevant health reports on a federal level and, therefore, to support decisions in health policy. The demand for representative population-based data will be met by supply of survey data as a file for public use.