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Rehabilitation Dataset Directory: Dataset Profile

Dataset: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Basic Information
Dataset Full Name Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
Dataset Acronym BRFSS

The BRFSS is designed to monitor risk behaviors related to chronic diseases, injuries and death, identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs. It is an annual cross-sectional telephone-based survey of adults ages 18 and older that provides national, state, and selected county and MSA level data on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access primarily related to chronic disease and injury.

The survey is conducted by the state health departments with technical and methodological assistance provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The survey is comprised of a core set of questions that all states must include and a set of optional modules that individual states may choose to include. Each optional module focuses on a specific topics such as adult asthma history, anxiety and depression, cardiovascular health, cognitive decline, pre-diabeties, cancer screening, visual impairment and access to eye care. See optional modules by category here: )

Key Terms Health Risk Behaviors, Chronic Disease, Health Care Access
Study Design Cross-Sectional
Data Type(s) Survey
Sponsoring Agency/Entity Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Health Conditions/Disability Measures
Health Condition(s) Arthritis, Asthma, Heart attack, Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Diabetes, Skin cancer, Other cancer, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)/emphysema/chronic bronchitis, Depression, Kidney disease, Other conditions covered in optional modules
Disability Measures

ACS 6 question disability series: 2016 - present: Visual disability, Hearing disability, Ambulatory disability, Cognitive disability, Self-care disability, Independent living disability

Alternate years core includes: Activity limitation, Special Equipment Use

2013-2015: used above items excluding Hearing Disability question

Prior to 2013: Activity limitation, Special Equipment Use

Measures/Outcomes of Interest
Topics Health status, Health related quality of life, Mental health, Chronic health conditions, Health care access/coverage, Diet, Exercise, Obesity, Tobacco use, E-cigarettes, Alcohol consumption, Immunization, Woman's health, Cancer screening, Diabetes follow-up
Sample Population Household (Adults ages 18 and older)
Sample Size/Notes 441,456 (2015) persons
Unit of Observation Individual
Continent(s) North America

United States

Geographic Coverage National, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam
Geographic Specificity State, select larger counties and Metropolitan & Micropolitan Statistical Areas (MMSAs) with a minimum of 500 completed interviews (will vary by year)
Data Collection
Data Collection Mode CATI phone based survey (including both land based and cell phones for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico survey as of 2015) Prior to 2011: land based lines only
Years Collected 1994 - present(all states participating)
Data Collection Frequency Annual
Strengths and Limitations
Strengths Unique combination of data on disability, demographics, health issues, behaviors and care. Large sample size and design allows examination of a variety of geographic levels including larger MSAs, cities and counties. Contains questions regarding specific chronic health conditions. Individual states can include optional modules focused on additional health related topics/conditions.
Limitations Current BRFSS data (2011 and later) is not directly comparable to data prior to 2011 due to changes in weighting methodology and the addition of the cell phone sampling frame. Disability related questions have varied over time. Excludes phoneless households. Limited economic indicators. Data analysis must be performed using statistical software packages/procedures such as SUDAAN, SAS, STATA, and SPSS that can account for BRFSS complex sampling design.
Data Details
Primary Website 

Data Access

CDC state level data:

CDC Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends (SMART) level BRFSS data:

CDC GIS Data and Documentation (2002-2010):

Data Access Requirements Public Use Dataset
Summary Tables/Reports

Prevalence Data & Data Analysis Tools:

Data Components
  • National/State level data
  • SMART City and County level data

GIS Maps data:

  • states and metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs) (2002-2010)
Selected Papers
Other Papers

The BRFSS Data User Guide, August 15, 2013:

Statistical Briefs:

Data Analysis considerations/examples for BRFSS complex sampling design :

Data Quality, Validity, and Reliability:

Methods, Validity, and Reliability Bibliography:

Historical Questions Database:

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The Rehabilitation Research Cross-dataset Variable Catalog has been developed through the Center for Large Data Research & Data Sharing in Rehabilitation (CLDR). The Center for Large Data Research and Data Sharing in Rehabilitation involves a consortium of investigators from the University of Texas Medical Branch, Cornell University's Yang Tan Institute (YTI), and the University of Michigan. The CLDR is funded by NIH - National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, through the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research, the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering. (P2CHD065702).

Other CLDR supported resources and collaborative opportunities:

Acknowledgements: This tool was developed through the efforts of William Erickson and Arun Karpur, and web designers Jason Criss and Jeff Trondsen at Cornell University. Many thanks to graduate students Kyoung Jo Oh and Yeong Joon Yoon who developed much of the content used in this tool.

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