The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a standardized, random telephone health survey conducted by each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and three U.S. territories under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The BRFSS survey began in the 1980s after research showed that personal health behaviors play an important role in the existence of unnecessary deaths and illnesses. The survey allows individual states to collect data on personal behaviors (such as smoking, drinking, not getting exercise, being overweight, not getting preventive medical care, and not using seatbelts) that are linked to the leading causes of death (heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, injury) and other important health issues. This information is used in a number of ways by different states.
The Arkansas Center for Health Statistics has been conducting a monthly BRFSS survey continuously since 1993 and currently completes over 400 telephone interviews per month. Various programs within the Department of Health as well as other organizations use information received from the survey for such purposes as:
- Developing state plans to reduce the burden of disease.
- Measuring the impact of health-related community projects on reducing the burden of disease.
- Assessing risk factors for disease and developing interventions to decrease them.
- Preparing grant proposals.
- Educating the public about community health issues.
Information from the BRFSS surveys can also be used to monitor Arkansas’ progress in meeting the U.S. Healthy People 2010 goals to improve the quality and years of healthy life of all citizens and to reduce health disparities or differences in health status between different groups of people (See Healthy People 2010: Understanding and Improving Health)