Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System BRFSS


To identify emerging health problems, establish and track public health goals.

Key Information

Information on health, health risk behaviors, preventive practices, and healthcare access among Rhode Island adults (18+ years) as part of an effort to address national key health indicators, and chronic conditions (including diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, and arthritis) important to Rhode Island.

Collection Period

Since 1984. In 2011 changes were made to how the data are analyzed to improve how well they represent the population at large.

How data are collected

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System ( BRFSS) is a state-based computer-assisted telephone interview survey. The collection process uses uniform guidelines and a standard questionnaire. In collaboration with other state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other department programs, a survey instrument is developed. Rhode Island contracts with a vendor, ICF International, to conduct the telephone interviews. The survey is administered as a random-digit dial telephone survey of non-institutionalized people age 18 or older. Telephone numbers are selected at random. Once a household is reached, one adult within a household is randomly selected for the interview. Calls are made throughout each month. The data that are generated from the interviews are transmitted to CDC for editing, processing, weighting, and analysis. Once data sets are finalized and weighted, data are "aggregated"; the data are analyzed by categorical groups (individual responses are not reported).

The survey began as a landline telephone survey. Due to increases in cell phone use, a cell phone survey was piloted in 2009. In 2011, data from adult cell phone-only users were added to data from landline interviews. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began weighting Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data using a new methodology referred to as “raking”. These changes improve the overall representativeness of the BRFSS data. However, the new raking methodology precludes any trending of data from previous years (2010 and earlier data can not be compared to 2011 and later data).

Rhode Island Numbers, 2017

  • 145 questions are asked in the survey. Of these, 90 are part of the national survey and 55 were recommended by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
  • Ths goal is to interview 5830 respondents with 55% of those people interviewed on a cell phone.
  • The average length of the survey is 23.2 minutes.