Health conditions are not distributed evenly within populations. Many factors, including demographic and geographic considerations, as well as social determinants of health, such as educational attainment and neighborhood effects, influence our health and wellbeing. Within Virginia, this is particularly true, given its diverse populations and cultures, and a geography that encompasses areas as diverse as Appalachia in the southwest and the Washington, DC metro area in the north. Health inequities and disparities are prevalent across these varied geographic regions and across the diverse populations within these regions. Virginia is committed to reducing health disparities and inequities through data-driven approaches. This requires timely, local-level data on health behaviors and social determinants of health, and the Virginia BRFSS program is well-positioned to provide quality, timely health behavior data to internal and external partners dedicated to implementing strategies to reduce health inequities.
Virginia plans to administer the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) during the 2020-2023 grant cycle. Data will be collected throughout the calendar year with a sample size and cell phone-land-line distribution of interviews that corresponds to the state population. BRFSS data will continue to be used by local health districts, internal programs, and external partners to monitor health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems in the Commonwealth. As Virginia BRFSS is the primary, and in some cases the only, source of health indicator data on the adult population in Virginia, these activities are critical to public health services in the state. Strategies and activities proposed include: appropriate sampling, data collection, and submission of BRFSS interviews; ongoing efforts of the BRFSS Workgroup to review the BRFSS questionnaire, approve optional modules, and recommend strategies for data use and dissemination; tracking of requests for BRFSS data; continued high-level data analysis and response to data requests, reports to stakeholders, and collaboration on state specific reports; data visualization work with BRFSS data in programs such as Tableau; BRFSS data analysis training opportunities for internal and external partners; coordination of data storage with the VDH Data Warehouse; and collaborations with varied agencies, programs and partners to effect improved outcomes.
The success of public health interventions across the Commonwealth and within each of the local health districts depends on the Virginia BRFSS program. Over the next grant cycle, the Virginia BRFSS Program aims to increase the access to quality and timely BRFSS data, and increase the frequency that BRFSS data are used to identify health risk behaviors and health status of populations.