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Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Book StackEach year, the Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) conducts a telephone health survey of NH adults. This survey, called 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.

The primary focus of the survey is on behaviors and conditions that are linked with the leading causes of death – heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, and injury – and other important health issues. Examples include:

  • Diet;
  • Exercise;
  • Overweight and obesity;
  • Injuries (use of seat belts and prevalence of falls);
  • Using tobacco;
  • Abusing alcohol;
  • Preventive medical care, such as flu shots, and cancer screening tests.

The health survey is part of a state-based system of health surveys that includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 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.

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 2009, the BRFSS began including cellular telephones in the survey. The number of adults moving away from landline telephones to use of cellular telephones only has been increasing rapidly. If cellular telephones are not included in the survey, an increasingly large proportion of the adult population will not be able to participate in the survey, making results invalid. By including cell phones in the survey, NH will have better information on the health of NH residents. This article from CDC provides more information on the impact of movement away from landline telephones on telephone survey results

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 page at

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

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New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services
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