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Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Every other year, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) conducts phone interviews to evaluate the health of Boston’s residents.

About the Survey

Since 1999, BPHC has conducted a phone interview survey to evaluate the health of Boston residents. Every other year the survey asks residents about a variety of health topics such as chronic disease, access to care, and behaviors that impact health. It also asks about factors that influence health, such as income, housing, education, and racism.

The Boston Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is based on the Center for Disease Control’s BRFSS project. That project is conducted annually in every state in the U.S. Over 400,000 adults participate in the BRFSS annually, making it the world’s largest health survey.

The Survey contacts a random sample of people who are asked to participate. Participation is voluntary and anonymous. Participants represent all Boston residents, so if you get the call be sure to participate and help give us a complete picture of the city’s health.

Survey FAQs

Q: I answered the phone and was willing to do the survey, but they asked to speak with a different adult in my home who wasn’t there - why?

A: The survey selects phone numbers to call at random. It also selects an adult from that household at random. This is so the sample is the best representation of all Boston residents.

Q: You have my phone number, are you sure this is anonymous?

A: Collected survey data are handled by a survey research company that has measures for securing data. It is never our goal to identify an individual. Data are analyzed at the group level to determine the needs and health status of Boston residents.

Q: What is the information used for?

A: Collected survey data are used in several ways. The data help to monitor the health of Boston residents over time and provide health status reporting for the annual Health of Boston report. Data are also used to show health needs when requesting grant funding for new programs.

For additional questions please contact the Research and Evaluation Office at, or call 617-534-4757.

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