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Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

BRFSS Adult Survey Questions

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a state-level survey of the adult civilian noninstitutionalized population (age 18 and older). It is a cooperative survey among the states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey tracks health risks in the U.S. adult population. Information from the survey is used to improve the health of the American people and assess progress toward the Healthy People 2010 goals, which are national health objectives established by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Before 1999, several states included questions about asthma on their BRFSS questionnaire, but the wording of the questions varied among those states. In 1999, an optional two-question adult asthma module was added to the BRFSS, representing the first effort to systematically collect state-based asthma prevalence data. In 2000, the two questions were included in the core of the BRFSS questionnaire and were asked in all participating states and territories. The two adult asthma prevalence questions will be included in the BRFSS in future years as well.

Beginning with 2001, nine questions on adult asthma history and two questions on child prevalence became available as an optional asthma module. In 2002, the adult and child questions were separated. The nine adult questions became the Adult Asthma History module. In 2005, the ninth question on the adult module, which had asked about taking medication in general, was separated into two questions: one about controller medications and one about rescue medications. The two child questions became the Child Asthma Prevalence module. In 2005, the Random Child Selection module was added as an additional step before the administration of the Child Asthma Prevalence module.

For each year of BRFSS asthma data, two asthma prevalence measures were constructed. Lifetime asthma is defined as an affirmative response to the question "Have you ever been told by a doctor {nurse or other health professional} that you have asthma?" Current asthma is defined as an affirmative response to that question followed by an affirmative response to the subsequent question "Do you still have asthma?"

BRFSS Call-back Surveys

The BRFSS Adult and Child Call-back Surveys converts the National Asthma Survey to a call-back survey administered as part of BRFSS. It first became available in 2005, when it was piloted as a 3-state sample. The 2005 data was released in 2007. In 2006, 25 states participated. In 2007, 35 states are using the BRFSS Call-back Survey.

When the Adult Asthma Call-back survey is administered, it is unnecessary to do the Adult Asthma History Module since the first eight questions on the module are included in the call-back survey, and the two medication questions on the module (the last two) are dropped and replaced by medication questions that are more in-depth. When the Child Asthma Call-back survey is administered, it is still necessary to do the Random Child Selection Module and the Child Asthma Prevalence Module to identify which households have a child with asthma and must be called back.