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North Carolina Health Statistics Pocket Guide 1999

Health Risks in North Carolina's Adult Population

Personal behaviors are one important contributor to the health status of a population. In North Carolina we can measure health risks in the adult population through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and is carried out in all 50 states. In North Carolina, the Center for Health Informatics and Statistics is responsible for the operation of this survey. The BRFSS is a random telephone survey of persons ages 18 and older across the state. Approximately 3,000 interviews, each about 25 minutes in length, are done each year. The responses are weighted so that the results are representative of the entire adult population of North Carolina. So far, the sample size has not been large enough to produce estimates for specific counties, though there are plans to redesign the survey to produce estimates for geographic sub-areas of the state.

The BRFSS asks a variety of questions about behaviors and health issues that affect the major causes of illness and death. Topics covered include perceived health status, health insurance, use of preventive health care, oral health, smoking, physical activity, diet, weight, health screening, use of birth control, seat belt use, and disability. For selected items, the percentages of respondents reporting the risk factors are shown here. Unless otherwise specified, the data is for the period 1997-1999.

A limitation of the BRFSS data is that it is based on self-reporting by the respondents. Recall problems and the tendency to report socially acceptable behaviors may affect the results. Also, persons without telephones are not included in the BRFSS. Persons without telephones are more likely to have lower incomes or to be unemployed, and therefore the BRFSS may under-estimate the prevalence of certain risk factors.

A strength of the BRFSS is that new data is available on an annual basis. This makes the BRFSS a useful tool for monitoring changes in health risks in the adult population of North Carolina, and for measuring the effectiveness of statewide health improvement programs. Also, with a similar design and a standard set of core questions across all states, comparisons can be made to other states or to the nation as a whole for many of the measures. The CDC web site provides state and national prevalence data, as well as other useful information about the BRFSS: http://www.cdc.gov/brfss/.

Selected BRFSS Results for North Carolina

Percent
Health was fair or poor 16.9
No health care coverage 13.0
There was a time during the last 12 months when they needed to see a doctor but could not because of the cost 12.3
Did not visit a doctor for a routine checkup in the past 2 years 13.7
Ever told by a doctor that they had diabetes (excluding women told only during pregnancy) 5.8
Had one or more permanent teeth removed because of tooth decay or gum disease (1999) 71.0
Current smoker 25.2
Engaged in no physical activities or exercise in past month (1998) 27.7
Overweight 58.4
Ever told by a doctor that they had high blood pressure (1997 & 1999) 23.7
Never had their blood cholesterol checked (1997 & 1999) 23.6
Among sexually active women, percent who are not using birth control now (1999) 30.3
Women age 50+ who did not have a mammogram within the past 2 years 22.0
Women age 18+ who did not have a Pap smear within the past 2 years 14.2
Did not always use seatbelts when driving or riding in a car (1997) 15.2
Ever told by a doctor that they had arthritis (1998) 22.6
Someone ever forced or tried to force them to engage in unwanted sexual activity (1997 & 1999) 11.0
Percent with some type of disability (self-perceived, activity limitation, special equipment, or problem learning, etc.) (1998-1999) 22.0

Note: Data is for 1997-1999, unless otherwise specified.

1999 Pocket Guide Table of Contents


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