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States' Use of Local Population Health Data: Comparing the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Independent State Health Surveys

Brown, E. Richard PhD; Kincheloe, Jennifer PhD, MPH; Breen, Nancy PhD; Olson, Jean L. MD, MPH; Portnoy, Barry PhD; Lee, Simon J. Craddock PhD, MPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: September/October 2013 - Volume 19 - Issue 5 - p 444–450
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3182751cfb
Original Articles

Objectives: To identify and compare key features of independent comprehensive state health surveys (SHS) with those of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for addressing the need for statewide and local population health data.

Methods: We developed inclusion criteria, systematically collected information about federal and SHS that met these criteria, and obtained supplemental information from SHS leaders.

Results: We identified comprehensive independent SHS in 11 states and BRFSS surveys in all 50 states. The independent SHS meet important statewide and local data needs, filling 3 key health data gaps in the BRFSS: lack of adequate data on special populations such as children, lack of data on specific localities, and limited depth and scope of health topics surveyed on key issues such as health insurance coverage. Unlike BRFSS, independent SHS have limited comparability with each other.

Conclusions: The BRFSS and independent SHS each meet some key state and local data needs but result in data gaps and inefficient use of resources. Surveys could more effectively and efficiently meet future needs for comparable data to monitor health care reform and address health disparities if they were coordinated across states and at the national, state, and local levels.

The objective of this study was to identify and compare key features of independent comprehensive state health surveys with those of the behavioral risk factor surveillance system for addressing the need for statewide and local population health data.

UCLA Center for Health Policy Research (Drs Brown and Kincheloe) and UCLA School of Public Health (Dr Brown), University of California, Los Angeles; Health Services and Economics Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute (Dr Breen), Epidemiology Branch, Division of Cardiovascular Sciences, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (Dr Olson), and Office of Disease Prevention, Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (Dr Portnoy), Bethesda, Maryland; and Department of Clinical Sciences and Program in Population Sciences and Cancer Control, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Dr Lee).

Correspondence: Nancy Breen, PhD, Health Services and Economics Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, 6130 Executive Blvd, Bethesda, MD 20892 (breenn@mail.nih.gov).

This article is based on a study conducted by the UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) Center for Health Policy Research under contract number HHSN26 I 200800793P from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Other funding organizations include the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the Office of Disease Prevention (NIH Office of the Director), and the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

We dedicate this article to E. Richard (Rick) Brown, a nationally recognized public health leader who advocated for health care reform and pioneered the collection and broad dissemination of health survey data to influence policy.

The authors gratefully acknowledge Erin Peckham, MPH, Kimberly Miller, and Héctor Alcalá, MPH, who assisted with data collection and Partha Bhattacharyya, PhD, National Institute on Aging; John Phillips, PhD, National Institute on Aging; and Alyssa R. Grauman, MPH, National Cancer Institute, for their assistance in bringing this project to fruition.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.