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For Release: March 26, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

State Health Telephone Survey to Expand to Cell Phones

A telephone survey designed to provide information on the health practices, health conditions and health risk behaviors of Oklahoma adults will expand its calls next month from landlines to include calls to cell phones, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) announced today.

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), the world’s largest random digit-dialing telephone survey, has been conducted in Oklahoma since 1988 by the OSDH and has provided several years of important data on a variety of health indicators including smoking prevalence, obesity, physical activity, diet, and dental and health care coverage. OSDH personnel conduct the BRFSS via ongoing monthly telephone interviews using a standardized questionnaire.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) administers the survey and is now requiring states to expand their random calling to include cell phone numbers in an effort to reach adults who have discontinued their landline telephones for cell phones. A recent study by the CDC found that Oklahoma leads the nation in the percentage of households that have cell phones only, about 26.2 percent.

“CDC believes that expanding the survey’s reach to cell phone users will assure the continuing validity of survey data,” said Kelly Baker, director of the Center for Health Care Statistics at the OSDH.

Baker said implementing calls to cell phones presents some logistical challenges. “To assure the safety of cell phone survey respondents, interviewers will ask if respondents are driving or otherwise occupied in a way that could put them at a safety risk. If so, an appointment will be made to resume the call at another time,” she said. “Interviewers will also attempt to confirm if respondents are 18 years of age or older, and that they do not have a landline, including telephone service through the Internet.”

Baker noted that while taking part in the BRFSS survey may seem like an inconvenience, the information gathered provides valuable feedback in monitoring the health of Oklahomans. To access Oklahoma health statistics online, visit www.health.ok.gov/ok2share.

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