Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Categorized Under: Business Process Operations + Optimization, Health, Surveys



ICF has conducted the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) continuously since 1989, in up to 29 states, amounting to a total of 2.5 million completed surveys. Over that time, ICF has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop a number of innovative strategies and protocols as part of ICF's commitment to continuously evolve our data collection techniques to address changes in technology and produce a more representative sample with higher quality data.

These efforts include:

  • Data collection efforts for the BRFSS support public health programs and legislative efforts that improve the physical and mental health of hundreds of thousands of Americans each year; call protocol enhancements included increasing refusal cool down times, adding answering machine messages, and timing and staffing of initial calling attempts
  • Strategic use of caller ID to offset the impacts of call screening and call blocking
  • Use of questionnaire splits to increase number of questionnaire topics without increasing the interview length
  • Selection as a launch vendor for BRFSS's web and cell phone pilots
  • Introduce a number of responsive design pilots to optimize responses obtained with maintaining the same overall data collection level of effort
  • Methodological pilots to introduce new modes for both advance notification and nonresponse follow-up

These efforts served to enhance response rates and reduce nonresponse bias.

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Insight Details

Client: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and State Health Departments
Location: United States

In 1984, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), and 15 states participated in monthly data collection. CDC developed a standard core questionnaire and optional modules for states to use to provide data that could be compared across states. Topics include a wide variety of health risk behaviors, including smoking, alcohol use, physical inactivity, diet, hypertension, and seat belt use.

  • Assessing health risk behaviors that are harmful to individual and public health—such as tobacco use, secondhand smoke exposure, binge drinking, and sedentary lifestyles—and the associated risks for chronic diseases
  • Identifying health-related trends and differences by demographic groups and measuring progress toward state and national goals
  • Implementing and managing health interventions and services
  • Addressing emergent and critical health issues
  • Measuring health care access and preventive health practices such as recommended screenings for breast cancer

Specific examples of the BRFSS surveys' far-ranging impacts have included:

  • A program to prevent driving while intoxicated that may result in lives saved on the roadways
  • A program for people at risk for HIV/AIDS that provides education on preventing infection
  • Monitoring supply and demand for vaccines during flu season
  • Assessing the impact of catastrophic events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005

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