About the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Data

This page provides information about the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is a state-based health survey conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The survey collects information on health risk behaviors, preventive health practices, and health care access related to chronic disease, injury, preventable infectious diseases (collected yearly) and oral health (collected every two years) among the adult population in all 50 states and 3 territories.


Which pages include the data?


What do the data tell us?

  • Population-based chronic disease prevalence, health behavior risk factors and access to health care
  • The number and percent of adults ages 18 years and older who visited a dentist or a dental clinic in the past year by age, sex, income, education and race/ethnicity
  • The number and percent of older adults ages 65 years and older who have had all their natural teeth removed
  • The number and percent of older adults ages 65 years and older who have had any permanent teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease
  • New modified methodology introduced in 2011, allows current data to better represent lower-income and minority populations, as well as populations with lower levels of formal education

Why are the data important?

BRFSS is currently the gold standard for behavioral health surveillance. It provides state-level prevalence estimates of the major behavioral risk factors among adults ages 18 years and older in relation to chronic disease morbidity and mortality. The survey collects data on actual behaviors, rather than on attitudes or knowledge. These behavioral data are useful for planning, evaluation, and carrying out health promotion and disease prevention activities. State specific survey questions may allow states to track progress in achieving national goals and objectives (e.g., Healthy People 2020).


How can we use the data?

  • Identify demographic variations in health-related behaviors and monitor trends
  • Measure progress toward achieving national health objectives defined through Healthy People 2020 goals and objectives
  • Plan, evaluate and carry out disease prevention and health promotion activities
  • Address frequent, severe and new health issues
  • Focus on resources and program activities that address access to dental care
  • Inform educators, researchers, medical, public health, and oral health professionals, policy makers, and the public
  • Propose and support health-related legislative initiatives

What will the data not tell us?

Direct comparison of 2012 BRFSS data to previous years and trend analysis is not possible. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the BRFSS weighting and sampling frame methodology. This included:

  • The addition of cell/mobile phone numbers to the list of landline phone numbers (i.e. the sampling frame)
  • Ranking methodology (weighting) to adjust survey data to more accurately reflect state demographic characteristics (age group by sex, detailed race/ethnicity, education, marital status, sex by race/ethnicity, and age group by race/ethnicity)

What are the oral health measures/indicators in the data?

  • Past year dental visit: The number and percentage of adults in Minnesota ages 18 years or older who reported a dentist or dental clinic visit within the past year.
  • Any natural teeth removed: The number and percentage of older adults in Minnesota ages 65 years and older who reported at least one of their natural teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease within the past year.
  • All natural teeth removed: The number and percentage of older adults in Minnesota ages 65 years and older who reported all their natural teeth removed due to tooth decay or gum disease.

How are the measures/indicators calculated?

Past year dental visit

Number of adults (18 years and older) with past year dental visits divided by the number of adults who responded to BRFSS survey, multiplied by 100-percent.

Any natural teeth removed

Number of older adults (65 years and older) with any natural teeth removed divided by the number of adults who responded to BRFSS survey, multiplied by 100-percent.

All natural teeth removed

Number of older adults (65 years and older) with all natural teeth removed divided by the number of adults who responded to BRFSS survey, multiplied by 100-percent.

Note: Percentages are weighted to population characteristics.


Which populations do the data represent?

  • United States and state non-institutionalized adults ages 18 years and older

What are the limitations of the data?

  • BRFSS data is collected by calendar year (January 1 through December 31).
  • The BRFSS surveys a sample of adults 18 years and older in households randomly selected from a list of landline and cell/mobile phone numbers. It does not represent all Minnesota adults, such as those in long-term care facilities, nursing homes, military or correctional institutions.
  • BRFSS is a phone-based survey and therefore does not reach adults without operable landline or cell/mobile phones.
  • Possible reporting bias

What is/are the source(s) of the data?

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Minnesota Department of Health, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Why can't I compare data from 2010 and before to 2011 and after?

BRFSS data from 2011 or later should not be compared to earlier years of data. Prior to 2011, BRFSS only sampled adults in households with landline phones. In 2011 and 2012, BRFSS included adults who received the majority of their calls on cell/mobile phones. Also, beginning in 2011, the weighting methodology changed to better account for underrepresented groups of people (such as young adults and racial/ethnic minorities) and allow for the incorporation of cell/mobile phone data. This new methodology reduces bias and increases the representativeness of estimates.


What are the survey dental/oral health-related questions and response items?

Oral health questions Response options

How long has it been since you (TARGET) last visited a dentist or a dental clinic for any reason? Include visits to dental specialists, such as orthodontists.

Within the past year (anytime less than 12 months ago)

Within the past 2 years (1 year but less than 2 years ago)

Within the past 5 years (2 years but less than 5 years ago)

5 or more years ago

Don’t know/Not sure

Never

Refused

How many of your (TARGET'S) permanent teeth have been removed because of tooth decay or gum disease? Include teeth lost to infection, but do not include teeth lost for other reasons, such as injury or orthodontics.

1 to 5

6 or more but not all

All

None

Don’t know/Not sure

Refused


How should I cite the data and information?

Minnesota Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Collected by the Minnesota Oral Health Statistics System, Minnesota Department of Health, Oral Health Program, December 2015.


Where can I find more technical information about the data?

To obtain technical information including survey methodology (i.e. how participants are chosen), full-length questionnaires, and full datasets by survey year, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Please send questions or comments to: Minnesota Department of Health, Oral Health Program.