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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
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The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System [BRFSS] was established by CDC in 1984 based on a series of initial surveys done in the early 1980’s. The system started with 15 states and now covers every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands. By 2007, the survey was collecting data about health risks from more than 350 thousand adults.

Working with the assistance of CDC, state health departments developed a core set of questionnaires and a standard procedure that uses telephone interviewing to track personal health behaviors. The survey has core content and periodically adds modules on special topics. States also can and do add questions to obtain information that they need to track special conditions or the effect of events on state residents.

Topics Covered
The BRFSS collects information on a wide range of behaviors that affect the health of adults in the US. The survey focuses on behaviors and conditions that are linked with the leading causes of death—heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and injury.

These include:
  • Physical inactivity.
  • Being overweight.
  • Not using seatbelts.
  • Using tobacco and alcohol.
  • Not getting preventive medical care, such as flu shots, mammograms, Pap smears, and colorectal cancer screening tests
  • Other related topics targeted to emerging health risks.
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