Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Each year, the Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) conducts a telephone health survey of NH adults regarding their health-related risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventive services. This survey, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey, is supported by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Results of the survey are used for planning and evaluating public health programs, focusing resources and monitoring the health of NH residents.

In this survey, BRFSS collects data on the six individual-level behavioral health risk factors associated with the leading causes of premature mortality and morbidity among adults: 1) cigarette smoking, 2) alcohol use, 3) physical activity, 4) diet, 5) hypertension, and 6) safety belt use. Each year, NH BRFSS conducts about 6,000 samples.  By collecting behavioral health risk data, BRFSS has become a powerful tool for targeting and building health promotion activities. BRFSS data helps establish and track state and local health objectives, plan health programs, implement disease prevention and health promotion activities, and monitor trends.

The BRFSS is part of a state-based system of health surveys that includes all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories. NH joined the BRFSS in 1987 and has conducted a survey each year since. In NH, interviews are conducted through a contract with a survey research firm. Work by the firm is carefully monitored by Bureau of Public Health Statistics and Informatics staff.

The BRFSS also can be used to collect information on urgent public health issues. For example, in 2009 and 2010, questions were quickly added to the BRFSS to monitor vaccination rates for the 2009 H1N1 influenza outbreak as well as flu-like illness.

In 2011, the NH BRFSS began to include cellular telephones in its annual survey. This change has the advantages of maintaining the representativeness, coverage and validity of the BRFSS data. Due to the change in weighting methodology, data collected prior to 2011 should not be used for comparison with data collected in 2011 and forward. In addition to age, gender, and race/ethnicity, raking permits more demographic variables to be included in weighting, such as educational attainment, marital status, tenure (property ownership), and telephone ownership. Including new variables in the weighting process can reduce the potential for selection bias while increasing representation. For more information see the Methodologic Changes in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2011 and Potential Effects on Prevalence Estimates, MMWR Weekly June 8, 2012 / 61(22);410-413

From time to time the BRFSS conducts additional, specialized surveys. Beginning in 2006, BRFSS respondents with asthma were invited to participate in a follow up survey about asthma awareness and control. Results from this may be found on the Asthma Control Program web pages.

For more information about the BRFSS or to see results from the survey, please visit the CDC BRFSS Web site or contact the Health Statistics and Informatics Section in the Division of Public Health Services.

BRFSS Data Reports