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J Public Health Manag Pract. 2013 Sep-Oct;19(5):444-50. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0b013e3182751cfb.

States' use of local population health data: comparing the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and independent state health surveys.

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  • 1UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, UCLA School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.



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.


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


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.


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.

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