Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Virginia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)?

The Virginia Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) initiated in 1989, is a federally funded telephone survey of randomly selected adult Virginians conducted on a monthly basis to collect data on lifestyle factors contributing to the leading causes of death and chronic disease. As a primary source for comprehensive statewide data on preventive health practices and health risk behaviors, BRFSS is an important tool for decision-making throughout the Virginia Department of Health and the public health community. Public and private health authorities at the federal, state, and local levels rely on BRFSS to identify public health problems, design policies and interventions, set goals, and measure progress towards those goals.

What type of information is collected?

Information is collected on chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, etc.), health insurance coverage, basic indicators of health status, utilization of health care services, and basic demographic characteristics such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, and income.

Will you be collecting any personal information?

We will not collect any personal information that may identify you. We will be asking questions about chronic diseases, health behaviors, and demographic characteristics (e.g., age, education, county of residence, etc.). You can skip any question that you think is too personal.

How do I know this is a legitimate survey?

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) has been conducting the BRFSS since 1989. Abt. SRBI, Inc. is the current contractor for VDH, and their interviewers will state that they are calling on behalf of the VDH. All interviewers have been trained according to the protocols specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is my information kept confidential?

Yes. There are many procedures in place to prevent the disclosure of information that may identify you to others. Some of these procedures include secure data networks, suppressing all data fields in public use files where there are less than 50 respondents, and using a unique identifier in the data set. The collected data are used for statistical purposes only. When analytic reports are prepared and released, your answers will be combined with those of many other respondents. No information that could identify any individual is released.

What is done with this information?

Have you ever been watching the evening news and heard a news reporter say, “The CDC reports that a number of people do (something), which is bad for their health?” This survey enables them to get that information. State and local health departments and national health organizations such as the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association also use BRFSS information to plan and target their health initiatives. BRFSS may be used to identify emerging health problems; establish and track health objectives; develop, implement, and evaluate a broad array of disease prevention activities; and support health-related legislative efforts.

Survey Participation Information

Do I have to participate in the survey?

Participation is very important to accurately represent all types of adults in Virginia, regardless of health status. Survey participation is voluntary; however we cannot select anyone else to replace you if you were selected and do not participate, which may mean that adults like you are underrepresented in statewide estimates. By participating, you perform a valuable public service for your family, community, and state.

Will my services from VDH be affected if I choose to participate?

Your services from VDH will not be affected if you choose to participate or if you choose not to participate. The survey is completely anonymous and voluntary and will not change any services you may receive from VDH.

How long does it take?

The survey takes around 20 minutes to complete, but can run a little shorter or longer depending on the number of questions asked and how long you take to answer each question. If it gets too long to complete at one time, you can always schedule a call back at a convenient time for you.

What languages do you conduct the survey in?

The survey is conducted in English and Spanish.

Calling Information

How did you get my phone number?

Your phone number was randomly selected from all working telephone phone numbers in your area.

Why are you calling me? I’m on the Do Not Call List.

The Do Not Call List pertains to companies trying to market products to consumers. We are calling for a health survey and are not marketing any products. If you do not want to participate in the health survey please call the BRFSS Coordinator at 804-864-7686 and they will make sure you are not called.

Why do you keep calling me after I told you I don’t want to participate?

Initial refusals are called again to verify that you do not want to participate in our survey. Sometimes people refuse because our initial attempt occurs at an inconvenient time.