Frequently Asked Questions - BRFSS

The Texas BRFSS is currently being conducted. If you receive a phone call on behalf of the Texas Department of State Health Services and CDC asking you to answer some questions about your health and health practices, it is a legitimate phone call. If you have any questions or concerns about the Texas BRFSS, please email the Texas BRFSS Coordinator at We appreciate you taking the time to participate in the Texas BRFSS.

If you have already responded to our survey, thank you! If you have been notified that your household has been selected for a health survey and you are thinking about becoming a survey participant, we hope these answers to some frequently asked questions will help you understand why your participation is so important.

General Information

What is the Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)?

The Texas BRFSS is a telephone survey of randomly selected adult Texans conducted on a monthly basis to collect data on health behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and chronic disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the BRFSS in collaboration with states in the early 1980's and all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three territories participate in the BRFSS. The BRFSS is the largest, continuously conducted telephone health survey in the world. The Texas BRFSS was initiated in 1987. The BRFSS is an important public health tool for measuring adult health by reaching out directly to adult Texans to learn more about chronic disease prevalence, risk behaviors, demographics, health care access, and preventive behaviors. Public and private health authorities at the federal, state, and local levels rely on BRFSS to identify public health problems, design policies and interventions, set goals, and measure progress towards those goals.

Why is this survey being conducted?

The Texas BRFSS survey is being conducted to collect health-related information to monitor the health of adult Texans. Data from the survey are used to provide information about health behaviors and chronic conditions to identify what prevention efforts are working and next steps for improving the health of Texans.

What type of information is collected?

The Texas BRFSS includes questions about: chronic disease prevalence (eg., ever diagnosed with asthma?), risk behaviors (e.g., currently smoke cigarettes), demographics (e.g., gender), health care utilization (e.g., have health insurance), and preventive behaviors (e.g., flu shot in the past year). Questions about timely or emerging public health topics such as disaster preparedness may also be included on the survey. 

Who can participate in the Texas BRFSS?

The BRFSS surveys adults 18 and older who reside in Texas. Adults who live in Texas for 30 or more days out of the year are considered Texas residents for the survey. Those who live in an institution, such as a nursing home, group home, or prison are not eligible. If you are not a current Texas resident, you can still answer the core questions on the survey but not the state-specific ones and that data will be transferred to the state where you currently reside. 

Will you be collecting any personal information?

Telephone numbers are randomly generated by a computer and we have no way of knowing whose number we are calling, or if it is a business, residential, or unlisted number. We will not collect any personal information that may identify you. We will be asking questions about chronic diseases, health behaviors, and demographic characteristics (e.g., age, education, county of residence, etc.). You can skip any question that you think is too personal. 

How do I know that the phone call or survey isn't a scam?

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has been conducting this survey since 1987 and currently contracts with an organization called ICF Macro to complete the calls on our behalf. Their interviewers will state that they are calling on behalf of the DSHS and all interviewers have been training according to the protocols specified by the CDC. Potential participants who are hesitant or have questions about the legitimacy of the survey can contact the Texas BRFSS Coordinator by email at

Is my information kept confidential?

Yes. There are many procedures in place to prevent the disclosure of information that may identify you to others. Some of these procedures include secure data networks, suppressing all data fields in public use data files where there are less than 50 respondents, and using a unique identifier in the data set. Phone numbers used for dialing are not attached to the data collected. The collected data are used for statistical purposes only. When analytic reports are prepared and released, your answers will be combined with those of many other respondents. No information that could identify any individual is released.

Who can I contact for more information?

For more information, you may contact the Texas BRFSS Coordinator by email at

What do you do with the answers/results/data?

Answers from this survey are used to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs.


BRFSS Survey Participant Information

Do I have to participate in the survey?

Participating by those randomly selected for the survey is very important to accurately represent all types of adults in Texas, regardless of health status. Survey participation is voluntary; however we cannot select anyone else to replace you if you were selected and do not participate, which may mean that adults like you are underrepresented in statewide estimates. By participating, you perform a valuable public service to your family, community, and state.

Will my services from DSHS be affected if I choose to participate?

Your services from DSHS will not be affected by your decision to participate. The survey is completely anonymous and voluntary and will not change any services you may receive from DSHS.

How long does the survey take?

The survey takes around 20 minutes to complete, but can run a little shorter or longer depending on the number of questions asked and how long you take to answer each question. If it gets too long for you to complete at one time, you can always schedule a call back at a convenient time for you.

What languages do you conduct the survey in?

The survey is conducted in English and Spanish.


BRFSS Calling Information

How did you get my phone number?

Your phone number was randomly selected from all working phone numbers, both listed and unlisted, in your area.

Why are you calling me? I'm on the Do Not Call List.

The national Do Not Call List was enacted to control telemarketing companies that sell services and products over the phone. Research calls are not included in the federal regulations that apply to telemarketing calls. The BRFSS survey is conducted for research and does not fall under current do-not-call list laws. DSHS is not selling anything and you can choose not to participate, but your answers will help us to evaluate and guide important public health policy and programs.

Why do you keep calling me after I told you I don't want to participate?

Initial refusals are called again to verify that you do not want to participate in the survey. Sometimes people refuse because our initial attempt occurs at an inconvenient time. In general, individuals are called several times to ensure they had an opportunity to take the survey at a convenient time. Other times we do not get the opportunity to talk to the randomly selected respondent. It is important to verify that the randomly selected respondent does not want to participate. To get the best survey results, we work hard to get a response from each person selected.

We are persistent with this survey because we cannot select anyone else to replace you if you were selected and do not participate, which could mean adults like you will not be accurately represented in Texas's health data.

Can I do the survey on my landline/cell/business phone?

Yes, but you must call our contractor directly and provide them with the phone number (landline or cell phone) that you were initially called on so that your interview is linked to the correct record. If you are busy driving or preoccupied doing something else that may affect your safety, we highly recommend, for your safety and confidentiality, that you complete the survey at home.

Can you call me back on my cell or at work?

No. At this time, our system is not set-up to call numbers outside our database. Our database of phone numbers only contains the phone number used to contact you and it is the only way we can make sure your interview is linked to the correct record.

What are your calling hours?

Our calling hours are listed below. Calling does not occur on New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

Monday through Friday: 8am - 8pm

Saturday: 9am - 4pm

Sunday: 12pm - 9pm

Why can't I be interviewed after the 21st of the month?

The sample of phone numbers we receive needs to be called to meet monthly CDC deadlines. Calling occurs for each month from the first of the month through the 21st of the month. There are exceptions to this rule, but very rarely do we extend our monthly data collection efforts through the end of the month.

I received your letter and called to be interviewed. They told me I had to wait until the first of the month. Why?

Letters are sent out about a week before we begin calling so that we allow time for the letters to get to all our respondents ahead of time. We cannot start interviewing adults until the first of the month because we administer our surveys in monthly batches. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Can I call you to do the survey at my convenience?

Yes. Our contractor has a toll-free number that you can call at your convenience. You must call during calling hours though. Their toll-free number is 855-276-3504.

My husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/roommate doesn't want to do the survey, can I do it for them?

No. We have to talk to the randomly selected adult in order to do the interview. "Proxy" interviews are not allowed because you may not be able to answer all the questions with certainty.

Why did I receive a letter in the mail telling me to expect a phone call from you?

As a courtesy, if we can match an address to your phone number, we mail out letters before we call so that you know it's a legitimate survey that the DSHS is conducting. We also provide our contractor's phone number so that you can be interviewed at your convenience. Your address and phone number are not attached to the data collected.