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Int J Public Health. 2010 Aug;55(4):243-9. doi: 10.1007/s00038-009-0098-7. Epub 2009 Dec 18.

The use of chronic disease risk factor surveillance systems for evidence-based decision-making: physical activity and nutrition as examples.

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Population Research and Outcome Studies Unit, SA Health, Adelaide, Australia.



To highlight the value of continuous risk factor surveillance systems in providing evidence of the impact of, and to inform health promotion interventions.


An ongoing risk factor surveillance system involving telephone interviews with approximately n = 600 randomly selected South Australians each month. Trend analysis on physical activity (PA) levels and daily consumption of fruit and vegetables was undertaken.


An apparent seasonal trend for fruit consumption and PA was found, with less activity and fruit consumption undertaken in winter months. Overweight/obese adults exercised less than those with normal BMI, and females less than males, although PA rates for both females and overweight/obese adults are rising. There was an increase in vegetable consumption following a major media campaign. Although reported prevalence of the consumption of five or more serves of vegetables daily and the mean number of serves consumed daily has decreased, it is still above pre-campaign rates.


Additional information obtained from a risk factor surveillance system, when compared to an annual or point-in-time survey, provides valuable evidence for health professionals interested in measuring and assessing the effectiveness of health promotion interventions.

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