BRFSS has a long history in behavioral and chronic disease surveillance. Fifteen states participated in the first BRFSS, conducted in 1984.
In this survey, BRFSS collected data on the six individual-level behavioral health risk factors associated with the leading causes of premature mortality and morbidity among adults: 1) cigarette smoking, 2) alcohol use, 3) physical activity, 4) diet, 5) hypertension, and 6) safety belt use. By 1993, BRFSS had become a nationwide system and the total sample size exceeded 100,000.
By collecting behavioral health risk data at the state and local level, BRFSS has become a powerful tool for targeting and building health promotion activities. As a result, BRFSS users have increasingly demanded more data and asked for more questions on the survey.
Currently, there is a wide sponsorship of the BRFSS survey, including most divisions in the CDC National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion; other CDC centers; and federal agencies, such as the Health Resources and Services Administration, Administration on Aging, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In addition, countries eager to develop similar surveillance systems have requested technical assistance from BRFSS staff.
These countries includes: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Italy, Jordan, South Korea, Mexico, nations in the Caribbean, and Vietnam.