Utah and the BRFSS

Utah has participated in the BRFSS since its beginning in 1984. The survey has always been done in-house at the Utah Department of Health Cannon Building in Salt Lake City. The interview was initially conducted using paper and pencil techniques. Since 1991 it has been done using a computer-assisted telephone interviewing system (CATI).

The annual sample size in Utah almost tripled from 633 in 1984 to 1,800 in 1992. In 1995 the sample size was increased again to approximately 3,000 per year so that data can be analyzed at the local health district level every three years.  In 2004 the sample was increased again and adjusted by health district in order to obtain 100 completed interviews in each of Utah’s 61 small areas by combining three years of data. Beginning in 2009, the annual sample size was increased to 10,000 when another state survey was combined with the BRFSS.

A Utah BRFSS Coordinator oversees data collection, manages the telephone sample, conducts data analysis, promotes use of the data and participates in report production. A Survey Center Manager and two Supervisors monitor the day-to-day interviewing activities and ensure  the accuracy of the data. A staff of approximately thirty specially trained interviewers conducts the interviews from a central calling facility at the Health Department.  Starting in January 2003, the interview has been conducted in Spanish, too.

Uses for BRFSS Data

The BRFSS was designed from the outset to allow comparisons between states, and between individual states and the nation. Every state uses a similar method of selecting respondents and the same core questions to facilitate comparisons. In 1998, for example, the prevalence of current smoking among U.S. adults ranged from a low of 14% in Utah to a high of 31% in Kentucky.

In 1995, Utah expanded its sample size to allow local health departments the ability to evaluate risk factors. The first report of the Utah BRFSS at the local health district level (Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Local Health District Report, 1995-1998) was published in December 1999 and is available at http://health.utah.gov/opha/publications/brfss/LHD98/brfsslhd.html. The second BRFSS local health district report (Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Local Health District Report, 1999-2001) was completed in March 2003. It is available at http://health.utah.gov/opha/publications/brfss/LHD01/LHD01.html and is the first report of Utah BRFSS data to include age-adjusted rates.

Because many of the same questions are asked each year, nationwide, state, and local trends in health-related behaviors and knowledge can be monitored over time. This capability is crucial in measuring the effectiveness of health promotion efforts. Utah’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System TREND REPORT 1989-1999 looks at BRFSS trends in Utah, Utah’s neighboring states, and the U.S. It is also available on this site at http://health.utah.gov/opha/publications/brfss/BRFSStrend/trend.html.

The first report of Utah BRFSS data by Utah’s 61 small areas was published in June 2007 and used data from over 22,000 interviews that were completed in years 2001-2005. “Small areas” refers to a set of 61 geographic areas in Utah with relatively small population sizes ranging from approximately 20,000 to 60,000 persons. These geographic areas are especially useful for doing public health assessment in communities within Utah’s urban counties. They were established by Utah Department of Health staff using ZIP code in order to make health data available at the community level. This report is available at http://health.utah.gov/opha/publications/brfss/SA2001-2005/SA2001-2005.html.

State and local health departments use the information available from the BRFSS for many purposes:

o        Determine priority health issues and identify populations at highest risk.

o        Develop strategic plans and target prevention programs.

o        Monitor the effectiveness of intervention strategies and progress towards achieving prevention goals.

o        Educate the public, the health community, and policymakers about disease prevention.

o        Support community policies that promote health and prevent disease.

BRFSS data also enable public health professionals to monitor progress in achieving the nation‘s health objectives, as outlined in Healthy People 2010. HMOs, researchers, and voluntary and professional organizations use the data in order to target prevention efforts.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, Operational and User’s Guide, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available on line at http://ftp.cdc.gov/pub/Data/Brfss/userguide.pdf.

Further information about Utah’s BRFSS may be obtained by contacting Jennifer Wrathall, Utah BRFSS Coordinator, in the Office of Public Health Assessment, Utah Department of Health, P.O.Box 142101, Salt Lake City, UT 84114-2101. Phone: (801) 538-9259. Email: jwratha@utah.gov.

Page updated on 2/11/2013