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Occupational Health: BRFSS
National information on workers’ health status, health risk behaviors, and the prevalence of workplace injuries and illnesses is incomplete and underreported. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has funded the addition of industry and occupation (I/O) questions to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) for survey years 2013-2016. States vote to add I/O as an Optional Module which allows state BRFSS programs flexibility to opt in to include I/O information in their state’s survey. Collecting I/O information provides an opportunity to collect population-based health status and health behavior data on workers to measure progress toward state and national health objectives.

With the addition of these important variables, specific indicators of health can be cross-tabulated to identify high-risk subpopulations of workers in your state. These include demographic information, household income, education level, health status (self-rated), life satisfaction (self-rated), asthma (ever diagnosed), cardiovascular disease (ever diagnosed), disability, body mass index, tobacco use (history and current use), alcohol consumption (# drinks per day past 30 days), exercise (outside of work, past month), sleep (days with insufficient amount, past month), seatbelt use (how often used), drinking and driving, falls, immunization (flu vaccine, past 12 months), and high-risk behavior for human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (past year).

This provides a new and meaningful data source that improves state-based public health surveillance systems for the prevention of work- related injury and illness, allows for better understanding of work as a social determinant of health, including health disparities related to work, and provides a potential mechanism for early identification of emerging occupational diseases. States are encouraged to administer the optional I/O module and to leverage I/O with the addition of other questions about work-related conditions, exposures, or risk factors. NIOSH provides several resources for participating states, including interviewer training and resources, coding of data received through the optional module, and dissemination of resources to partners.

2013 BRFSS Questions:
The I/O questions are essentially the same as those on the National Health Interview Survey. Interviewers collect responses in open-ended text fields, and NIOSH staff codes the responses using the 2002 U.S. Census Bureau coding scheme. Click here to access approved questions for 2013 BRFSS.
BRFSS website:
NIOSH BRFSS industry and occupation website:
NIOSH workgroup:
NIOSH has established a BRFSS workgroup and FTP site for file sharing and broader discussion. Interested states using or considering addition of the I/O questions can request access by contacting Winnie Boal at wboal@cdc.gov.
BRFSS Interviewers:
Tips for Obtaining Good Industry and Occupation Information
State Reports and Journal Articles:
Webinar Resources:
BRFSS Newsletter (quarterly publication):
NAICS coding guidance (groupings when reporting rates)
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