Since 1999 the Boston Public Health Commission has been evaluating the health of Boston residents by conducting a telephone-based health interview survey. The Boston BRFSS survey is conducted approximately every other year, and asks Boston residents about a variety of health topics such as chronic diseases and health insurance, and behaviors that impact one’s health like diet, exercise and tobacco use. The Boston BRFSS is based on the Centers for Disease Control’s BRFSS project which is conducted annually in every state in the U.S. Over 350,000 adults participate in the BRFSS annually, making it the world’s largest health survey.1
If You Get the Call – Participate!
The Boston BRFSS is a scientifically conducted survey, and a random sample of people are contacted and asked to participate. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. The people who participate represent all Boston residents – so if you get the call, please participate so that you are represented with your fellow Bostonians. This will give us the best picture of how the city’s residents fare on a variety of health measures.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I answered the phone and was willing to do the survey, but the interviewer wanted to speak with a different adult in my home who wasn’t there – why?
A: The BRFSS randomly selects phone numbers to be called, and then randomly selects an adult from within a household. This is not necessarily the person who answered the phone. This is so that we get the best sample that represents all Boston residents.
Q: You have my phone number – are you sure this is anonymous?
A: A survey research company that BPHC has hired collects the survey data, and has several measures in place to store the data securely. The data at BPHC do not contain household telephone numbers. Even so, the data are stored in a secure area only accessible to BPHC staff, and further password restricted to limited research staff. It is never our goal to identify an individual. We analyze the data at the group level in order to determine the health status and needs of Boston residents.
Q: What do you use the information for?
A: The Boston BRFSS data are used in several ways. Some of the ways include monitoring the health of Boston residents over time and health status reporting in the annual The Health of Boston
report. Additionally the data are used to demonstrate health needs in grant funding requests for new programs to serve Boston residents, and to evaluate existing programs.
Q: I still have more questions. Who can I contact?
A: If you have additional questions about the Boston BRFSS you can call the study director, Daniel Dooley in the Research and Evaluation Office at 617-534-2360. If you have general questions about the BRFSS, please see the Centers for Disease Control’s project website at http://www.cdc.gov/brfss/index.htm
for more information the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.