Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 

About BRFSS:Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

History of BRFSS

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a yearly survey that measures changes in the health of people in Iowa. It is the largest continuously running telephone survey in the world. All 50 states, the District of Columbia and three U.S. territories, conduct the survey under the direction of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Iowa BRFSS is an important tool for data-driven decision making in the public health community. 

In 1981, the CDC began assisting states in conducting risk factor surveys. One year later, a point-in-time survey was first conducted in Iowa. In 1988, Iowa began fully participating in CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

How BRFSS Works

The CDC provides a core questionnaire, and states can choose to add to their surveys by including optional question modules and state-added questions. The CDC provides oversight and a standardized set of survey methods, so that comparisons can be made across the nation.

The Iowa BRFSS asks questions to adults 18 and older on different health behaviors. Each month a random sample of telephone interviews are completed. Questions in the survey cover many topics, including nutrition, physical activity, tobacco use, hypertension, blood cholesterol, alcohol use, and access to health care.

How BRFSS Data is Used

Iowa BRFSS survey data is used to design, implement, and support public health activities with the goal of reducing chronic diseases and other leading causes of death for Iowans. The survey is conducted every year, which allows for health trends to be compared over time. 

This data is also used to monitor the progress made towards the state’s Healthy Iowans: Health Improvement Plan and the national Healthy People 2020 Objectives. These plans aim to improve the health of Iowa and the nation. They measure trends in health over time and cover topics like current smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, exercise and physical activity, flu and pneumonia vaccinations, cholesterol awareness and cancer screenings, and injury control. Looking ahead, Iowa BRFSS data will be used to measure statewide progress towards the Healthy People 2030 Objectives.

Iowa BRFSS Annual Reports:

Each year, the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of Public Health Performance publishes an annual BRFSS report. These reports summarize the findings from the most recent year’s BRFSS data. Reports can be found below:

Additional Iowa BRFSS Information:

National BRFSS Information:

Contact Information:

Eliza Daly
BRFSS Coordinator
Iowa Department of Public Health
321 East 12th Street
Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075
Phone: (515) 322-3213


Olivia Diggs
Data Management Program Epidemiologist
Iowa Department of Public Health
321 East 12th Street
Lucas State Office Building
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075
Phone: (515) 201-9370

Use the IDPH Contact Us system to submit a question online to the Iowa BRFSS Program.