What in the world is BRFSS?

Three ways that data can improve our health

Have you ever wondered how public health workers learn where they can help the most? They learn a lot from surveys. There are many different surveys, but one of the most important is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS.

Pronounced “bur fuss,” BRFSS is the longest continuously running phone survey in the world. It measures the health of people in Washington, and around the country. If you’re curious about how it works, read how it’s conducted and how you can help.

BRFSS is a unique survey. It asks residents about their own health and experiences instead of relying on reports from doctors or healthcare organizations. BRFSS tells us about challenges facing specific groups, like those who share an occupation, or live in a given area. Here are some findings from Washington BRFSS results over the years:

🟣 Home-based health care providers face many different health challenges than non-home-based providers.

Home-base health providers (HB providers) visit people at home to help them stay safe and healthy. They include health aides, home care aides, and personal care aides. HB providers are especially important to the elderly and those who can’t leave their homes to receive care. Since HB providers work in places that are not designed for health care, they face different challenges than clinic-based providers.

BRFSS data shows that HB providers are more likely to smoke, be overweight, have diabetes and arthritis, and suffer mental illnesses. Other studies show they also suffer back injuries more often, and are more prone to slips and falls than clinic-based providers. This data shows us that the methods used to keep clinic-based providers safe and healthy don’t always work with HB providers. In this way, BRFSS shows us what areas we can focus on to help keep HB providers healthy.

Read the full report here.

🟣 Janitors are at risk of injury and in poor general health

Much like HB providers, janitors are a large and growing vocational group. It’s the 12th most common occupation in Washington. Janitors’ jobs bring many hazards, such as exposure to chemicals and dangerous situations.

BRFSS data from 2011 to 2017 showed that janitors had poorer health than the general population. They had higher rates of arthritis and depression. They were less likely to get enough sleep, have health insurance, and have a cell phone or internet access. They also smoked more and used more marijuana.

BRFSS data shows that janitors can benefit from increased efforts to improve their health and their occupational safety. The data also suggests that these efforts must be tailored to the communication preferences of this group. Many janitors tend to have lower access to technology and prefer to communicate in languages other than English.

Read the full report here.

Counties can share localized public health information

Some counties, like Clark and King county, use BRFSS data to show how health conditions vary by community. They use it to create maps that show health-related conditions at the neighborhood level. These maps let residents see what’s happening in their communities. They improve public awareness and can guide work to improve local conditions.

That sounds interesting. What can I do to help?

Answer your phone. You may receive a phone call asking for your participation from our affiliate, ICF International. It only takes about 25 minutes and asks questions about your general health and specific conditions like asthma, access to health care, and cancer screenings. The information helps us understand the health landscape in our state.

Can I volunteer to take the survey?

Unfortunately, you cannot volunteer to participate in the BRFSS survey. All participants are randomly selected to protect the quality of the health data and ensure that the data accurately represents the people of Washington state.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in BRFSS over the years, and to those who will participate in the future! You’ve provided an invaluable public health service to your fellow Washingtonians. With this information, we can all make better decisions to help keep everyone in Washington safe and healthy.

More information

This blog is accurate as of the date of posting. Information changes rapidly, so check the state’s COVID-19 website for the most up-to-date info at coronavirus.wa.gov. You can also sign up to be notified whenever we post new articles.

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to everyone 12 and older. For more information about the vaccine, visit CovidVaccineWA.org and use the vaccine locator tool to find an appointment. The COVID-19 vaccine is provided at no cost to you.

WA Notify can alert you if you’ve been near another user who tested positive for COVID-19. Add WA Notify to your phone today: WANotify.org

Answers to your questions or concerns about COVID-19 in Washington State may be found at our website. You can also contact the Department of Health call center at 1–800–525–0127 and press # from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday, and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday — Sunday and observed state holidays. Language assistance is available.



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