About General Health Status Data

Tracking general adult health status involves collecting data through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) about how individuals rate their own health, and how many days out of the past 30 were their physical and mental health not good.

This page provides general information about adult general health status data and measures developed by the Iowa Public Health Tracking program. Contact Us for more information about these data.

Information on this page:

What is the source of the data?

The adult general health status data displayed here are collected through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is the nation’s premier system of telephone surveys that collect state data about health risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of clinical preventive services among adult U.S. residents.

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How does BRFSS collect data?

BRFSS invites a randomly selected sample of Iowan adults to participate in the telephone survey. Recent surveys have included both adults who have landline telephones and cell phone users, and have had between 6,000 and 7,700 participants. All responses are weighted to the entire Iowan population so that weighted results are intended to capture the experience of the entire state.

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What questions were asked to collect data on general health status?

People who took part in BRFSS were asked the question, “Would you say that your general health is….” And were given the options, “excellent”, “very good”, “good”, “fair”, and “poor”. They were also asked, “Now thinking about your physical health, which includes physical illness and injury, for how many days during the past 30 days was your physical health not good?”. The same question was asked about mental health. If an individual responded that their physical/mental health was not good on 14 or more days, they were considered to have poor physical or mental health.

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What time period was the data collected?

The self reporting overweight and obesity questions were asked in the BRFSS Core section every year from 2011-2018.

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Can I compare pre-2011 BRFSS data to post-2011 BRFSS data?

No, due to changes in data collection and analysis methodology; data from 2011 and later should not be compared to data from before 2011. Earlier versions of the BRFSS survey only contacted people with landline telephones. Beginning in 2011, BRFSS changed the collection methodology to include cell phones in its sampling frame. In addition, a new method for weighting the sample called iterative proportional fitting or raking was introduced. This methodology better allows data for population subgroups that are underrepresented in the sample to be more accurately represented in weighted estimates. The raking method allows more demographic variables to be used in creating sample weights leading to more accurate estimates.

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Where can I find more technical information about the data?

To explore technical information and to review the annual reports, please visit the IDPH BRFSS website.

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