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Use of an industry sector pick list to collect industry of employment in the Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

Fang S; Davis L
Boston, MA: Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Technical Report 2010-1, 2010 Feb; :1-7
The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a state-based population health surveillance tool and widely relied-on source of information on a variety of health risk behaviors, clinical preventive health practices, health care access, chronic conditions, and emerging public health issues.(1) It is a continuous, population-based, random-digit-dial telephone survey of adults ages 18 and older conducted by state health departments in all states and territories in collaboration with the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While there is some variation in the specific questions asked each year, the Massachusetts BRFSS includes a core set of questions developed by the CDC, optional state modules developed by the CDC, and state-added questions developed by programs within the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). This survey has great potential to generate otherwise unavailable information about occupational health outcomes and risk factors at the state level. In recent years, Massachusetts, as well as a number of other states, has used it for this purpose.(2) Routine collection of information about occupation and/or industry in the BRFSS is potentially highly useful for other public health initiatives, most notably chronic disease prevention and control programs that are increasingly focusing on the worksite as a venue to promote health. Inclusion of employment information in this well-established surveillance system would also foster a broader public health vision of healthy work that addresses both health promotion and health protection in the workplace. In 2007, Massachusetts included questions in the BRFSS on category of industry. Questions on work-related injuries and use of workers' compensation were also asked on the Massachusetts survey and by several other states. In the past (2001 and 2002), Massachusetts BRFSS had asked about industry and occupation along with questions specific to work-related asthma. Industry and occupation were collected as separate narrative text fields from those respondents who answered yes to questions about work-related asthma. Coding this information, however, proved to be resource intensive and was of limited success. Surveyors were not properly trained to ask these questions and many responses were too vague to be coded. Surveyor training is necessary to improve the usefulness of the narrative industry and occupation information collected. Future electronic industry and occupation coding software, currently under development at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), will make for more efficient coding of narrative text. Given past experience and limited resources for training surveyors and coding information collected on industry and occupation, Massachusetts elected to pilot the use of a pick-list to collect industry information in the 2007 survey. We chose to collect information on industry as opposed to occupation because industry is more useful for targeting worksite interventions. Moreover, the number of possible occupations far exceeds the number of industry sectors or subsectors, and thus asking about industry in the survey was more practical. We derived the industry pick list empirically from the industry distribution of the Massachusetts workforce, choosing the most common industries and categories that could be collapsed into the established North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) coding scheme of the U.S. Census Bureau. The pick list options were also selected and phrased to be easily interpretable by the general public. This report summarizes findings from our analysis of the industry pick list, including an analysis of the narrative responses given for the option of "other". These findings demonstrate the utility of using an industry pick list in the BRFSS survey and its potential use in other surveys and data collection systems, including electronic medical records. Our findings also suggest how the industry pick list could be improved for future use.
Occupational-health; Surveillance-programs; Health-surveys; Questionnaires; Information-systems; Information-retrieval-systems; Occupations; Risk-factors; Behavior; Industrial-exposures; Work-environment; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Diseases; Disease-prevention; Health-protection; Control-methods; Training; Statistical-analysis
Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Bureau of Health Information, Statistics, Research and Evaluation, Occupational Health Surveillance Program, 250 Washington Street, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02108
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Cooperative Agreement
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Healthcare and Social Assistance
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Use of an industry sector pick list to collect industry of employment in the Massachusetts Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division