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Highlights 2003

Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

About the BRFSS survey

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) is a random telephone survey of state residents, age 18 and older in households with telephones. The BRFSS Survey was initially developed in the early 1980s by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with state health departments, and is currently being conducted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and three United States territories. The BRFSS is the longest running and largest telephone health survey in the world.

For the 2003 survey, the North Carolina BRFSS Program conducted interviews in both English and Spanish and interviewed a total of 9,455 adults. The 2003 questionnaire included 179 questions covering many different topics: Health Status, Health Care Access, Exercise, Diabetes, Hypertension Awareness, Cholesterol Awareness, Fruits and Vegetables, Weight Control, Asthma, Immunization, Tobacco Use, Alcohol Consumption, Excess Sun Exposure, Arthritis, Falls, Disability, Physical Activity, HIV/AIDS, Heart Attack and Stroke, Cardiovascular Disease, Smoking Indicators, Other Tobacco Products, Binge Drinking, Aging, Diabetes Screening, Weight Loss Products, and Violence (see the 2003 questionnaire on our web site).

The 2003 sample design included over-sampling of five counties and 12 regions consisting of more than 50 smaller counties to produce county or regional BRFSS estimates. The 2003 results for each question are available on the BRFSS web site by sex, race, Hispanic origin and language (English, Spanish-only), age group, education level, household income, and county and region. The new BRFSS Survey results provide public health planners and program managers with a closer look at the health and well-being of North Carolina's minority populations, as well as that of the state's general population. The 2003 data provide estimates on the health of Native Americans and Hispanics speaking Spanish-only.

It should be noted that the county-level percentages may vary substantially from year to year due to random variation resulting from a relatively small survey sample size. The margin of error for the county indicators is approximately plus or minus 5%, so fairly large changes in the percentages over time may be expected. Please pay attention to the 95% confidence interval information that is provided with each percentage on the BRFSS web site.

Highlights from the 2003 North Carolina BRFSS survey results:

Health Care Access:

  • An estimated one million North Carolina adults under age 65 (one in five adults) had no health insurance coverage. The rate of no health insurance coverage in 2003 was almost identical to the 2002 rate. Minorities had lower rates of health insurance coverage. Only one in three Hispanics reported having health insurance coverage.
  • One in seven North Carolina adults reported that there was a time in the past 12 months when they needed medical care, but could not get it due to cost. Approximately half of these adults, who could not get medical care due to cost, had health insurance coverage.

Health Risks:

  • The adult smoking rate decreased slightly from 26.2% in 2002 to 24.8% in 2003. Smoking prevalence was highest among adults with less than a high school education (32.9%).
  • Across North Carolina, current smoking rates were the lowest in Orange County (14.7%) and the highest in the Surry/Stokes/Yakin area (32.6%). More people in rural areas reported smoking compared to those in urban areas.
  • Prevalence of both obesity and overweight increased slightly in 2003. Approximately one in four North Carolina adults was obese. Obesity prevalence was much higher among Native Americans and African Americans than whites.
  • About 8.5% of adults reported binge-drinking (5 or more drinks on at least one occasion) in the past month.
  • Overall, a quarter of North Carolina adults reported no leisure time activity. The rate was highest among Hispanics (43.7%), particularly among those who spoke only Spanish (49.7%).
  • About 23% of adults reported eating 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day, within a percentage point of the 2002 rate.
  • About 12% of adults reported that they fell within the last three months and 40% of these falls resulted in injuries.
  • Sunburn prevalence was 22% among adult North Carolinians.
  • About 18% of North Carolina adults reported ever being physically assaulted. Of these persons who were assaulted, 84 % reported being physically assaulted by someone they knew. About 25% of those assaulted did not tell anyone about the violence.

Chronic Conditions:

  • About 29% of adults reported that they have doctor-diagnosed arthritis. Among working-age adults with arthritis or chronic joint pain, 28.5% reported that their arthritis impairment affects whether they work, the type of work they do, or the amount of work they do.
  • The prevalence of diabetes is now more than 8% and has been steadily increasing. Diabetes prevalence was much higher among Native Americans (12.8%) and African Americans (12.1%) than among whites (7.7%). The Hoke/Robeson/Scotland area had the highest rate of diabetes (15.4%) in North Carolina.
  • The prevalence of ever being diagnosed with asthma increased slightly in 2003 to 11.3% up from 10.1% in 2002. Asthma prevalence was somewhat higher among Native Americans and African Americans than whites.
  • About 8% of North Carolina adults had a history of cardiovascular diseases (heart attack or coronary heart disease or stroke).

Quality of Life:

  • About 29% of North Carolina adults reported some kind of disability. The rate of disability was much higher in the eastern and western part of the state than the Piedmont.
  • One in five of North Carolinians rated their overall health as fair or poor.
  • About 13% of North Carolinians reported that their physical health was not good for at least 8 days in the past 30 days.
  • About 12% of North Carolinians reported that their mental health was not good for at least 8 days in the past 30 days.

Preventive Health Behaviors:

  • About one-third of all North Carolinians had a flu shot in 2003; about two-thirds of adults age 65 and older had a flu shot. Fewer minorities had a flu shot than whites.
  • The percentage of people getting a pneumonia vaccination increased from 18.8% in 2002 to 22.1% in 2003. In 2003, a higher proportion of older adults had this vaccination.

Return to 2003 BRFSS Annual Results Table of Contents