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BRFSS Data Gets the Jump on Chronic Health Challenges


  • To be effective, health data needs to be consistent
  • Abt obtains high data quality indicators
  • BRFSS data we collect helps identify a variety of national and local chronic diseases
The Challenge

With health departments at the state and local level, the United States need consistent data to identify trends, track benchmarks and implement solutions at national, state and local scales. The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a critical part of the standardization process. The BRFSS is implemented by all states, the District of Columbia, and three territories with oversight and assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These state-based telephone surveys collect information about individual risk behaviors and preventive health practices affecting the major causes of morbidity and mortality. To make the most of this data, however, the collection and evaluation needs to be standardized.

The Approach

To help public health departments collect—consistently--the high quality data they need to improve programs and services,  Abt adheres to all CDC BRFSS protocols. We frequently provide our clients with statistical support, including complex sampling designs, weighting, and small area estimation. We assist with questionnaire development, create public use data files, write public use reports, build dashboards and web query tools, and conduct point-in-time surveys on various topics such as asthma, tobacco and child health.

The Results

Because BRFSS data are high quality, accurate and collected consistently in every state, researchers are able to identify trends to help adults nationwide. For example, data we’ve collected has been used to demonstrate that: 

  • Over half of rural adults with arthritis have an arthritis-attributable activity limitation;
  • Transgender adults are significantly more likely to be uninsured; and
  • Increasing physical activity and reducing smoking could provide adults with depression a higher life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy.
North America