Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
In 1984, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the Behavioral Risk Factor
Surveillance System. The BRFSS is the nation’s premier system of health-related telephone surveys
conducted by state health departments that collect data about residents regarding their health-related
risk behaviors, chronic health conditions and use of preventative services. State health departments
conduct this survey on a monthly basis using a standardized questionnaire. Responses from the
survey are forwarded to CDC every month where the data is aggregated for each state. Originally
there were only 15 states from which data was collected. Today, data is collected from all states plus
the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Palau, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam.
IT WAS BEING DEVELOPED
In the early 1980’s scientific research showed that
person’s health behaviors played a major role in premature morbidity and
mortality. Although national estimates of health risk behaviors among U.S adult
populations had been periodically obtained through surveys conducted by the
National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the data was not available on a
state specific basis. The issue of not
being able to obtain all necessary data was an obstacle for state health
agencies that were trying to target resources to different populations to
reduce behavioral risks and their consequent illnesses. As a result of not having complete
information available, surveys were developed and conducted to monitor state specific
prevalence of behavioral risks among adults associated with premature morbidity
DATA CATEGORIES COLLECTED FOR BRFSS
Data is collected for BRFSS in the following categories:
-Health care access
-Overweight and obesity
-Fruit and vegetable consumption
Listed below are examples of what the state of
Pennsylvania uses BRFSS data for :
- Formulate annual cardiovascular risk
reduction program plans and assess behavior changes
- Monitor diabetes trends over time and
develop program interventions.
- Monitor cancer trends over time, develop
program interventions and produce media
- Develop annual program plans and
identify emerging issues in injury prevention.
- Support findings from a statewide oral
health needs assessment indicating that low income
and educational status is
linked to increased oral disease.
- Evaluate adult educational programs
designed to address oral health issues.
- Assess progress towards Healthy People
2020 objectives for osteoporosis, arthritis and
- Adjust arthritis and asthma intervention
programs on a regional or population basis.
- Adjust arthritis and asthma program
planning and priorities.
- Compare Pennsylvania with other states
on progress toward Healthy People 2020 objectives.
- Develop annual osteoporosis program plans, refine public health education and
promotion programs and measure behavioral changes over time.
CDC will continue to work closely with the state of
Pennsylvania to address any challenges associated with reaching participants
and collecting high quality data.