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FAQ-Survey Respondents

Frequently Asked Questions for Survey Respondents

1. What is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)?
2. Why am I getting calls from 1-866-226-0587?
3. How did BRFSS get my phone number?
4. I'm on the "Do Not Call" list; Why am I still getting calls?
5. Why do you keep calling me after I told you I don?t want to participate?
6. How can I know I am being asked to participate in a legitimate survey?
7. Do I have to participate in the BRFSS survey?
8. Can I call you to do the survey at my convenience?
9. Will you be collecting any personal information?
10. Is my information kept confidential?
11. What do you do with the answers/ results/ data?
12. Another adult in my household was selected for the survey but does not want to participate; can I answer the survey instead?
13. I received a BRFSS survey in the mail, how did BRFSS get my address?
14. How long will the survey take to complete?


1. What is the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)?
The BRFSS is a state-based system of telephone surveys conducted in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that gathers information about health, health risk behaviors, preventive practices, and health care access from adults aged 18 and older.

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2. Why am I getting calls from 1-866-226-0587 ?
Your household has been selected to participate in the Montana Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Each year, the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) conducts this survey in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in order to collect health information about Montanans. 1-866-226-0587 is the phone number of the call center that conducts the Montana BRFSS interviews. If you wish to participate in the survey, you can simply wait for another call from our call center or call the toll free number, 1-866-226-0587 ( select option 4), to set up an appointment for an interview.

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3. How did BRFSS get my phone number?
A set of computer generated random phone numbers (with Montana prefixes) are produced at least four times per year. The phone numbers are first called to verify if they are residential or business phone numbers. If residential, a randomly selected adult from all the adults in the household is asked to participate in the survey.

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4. I'm on the "Do Not Call" list; why am I still getting calls?
The Do Not Call List applies to companies trying to market products to consumers. We are calling for a health survey and are not marketing any products.

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5. Why do you keep calling me after I told you I don't want to participate?
Initial refusals are called again to verify that you do not want to participate in our survey. Sometimes people refuse because our initial attempt occurs at an inconvenient time. Other times we do not get the opportunity to talk to the randomly selected respondent. It is important to verify that the randomly selected adult does not want to participate.

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6. How can I know I am being asked to participate in a legitimate survey?
The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) has been conducting this survey since 1984. Our interviewers will state that they are calling on the behalf of DPHHS. All interviewers have been trained according to the protocols specified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey coordinator's name (Emily Healy) and number (406-444-2973) are provided if potential participants are hesitant when they receive a phone call. Additionally, if you provide Emily with your phone number she can verify that you are part of our sample.

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7. Do I have to participate in the survey?
Participation by those randomly selected for the survey is very important to accurately represent all types of adults in Montana, regardless of health status. Survey participation is voluntary; however, we cannot select anyone else to replace you if you were selected and do not participate, which may mean that adults like you are underrepresented in statewide estimates. By participating, you perform a valuable public service for your family, community, and state.

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8. Can I call you to do the survey at my convenience?
Yes, our call center has a toll free number, 1-866-226-0587 (select option 4), that you can call anytime during calling hours. Calling hours on weekdays are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sundays 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (MST).

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9. Will you be collecting any personal information?
We will not collect any personal information that may identify you (e.g., last name, address, birthday, etc.). We will be asking questions about chronic diseases, health behaviors, and demographic characteristics (e.g., age, education, county of residence, etc.). You can skip any question that you think is too personal.

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10. Will my personal information be released publicly?
Absolutely not! There is no personally-identifiable information associated with each respondent's answers. A fundamental principle of BRFSS is protecting the confidentiality of the respondent's answers. Answers to BRFSS questions are aggregated which means that no one individual's data can be traced back to a particular person. Even the telephone number called is not included in the dataset so that answers cannot be connected to a specific person or telephone number.

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11. What do you do with the answers / results / data?
Answers from this survey are used to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs.

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12. Another adult in my household was selected for the survey but does not want to participate; can I answer the survey for them?
No. We have to talk to the randomly selected adult in order to do the interview. "Proxy" interviews are not allowed because you may not be able to answer all the questions with certainty.

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13. I received a BRFSS survey in the mail, how did BRFSS get my address?
CDC and states are conducting pilot studies to improve survey methodology. The mail survey is part of a study being conducted to learn about the characteristics of people who did not answer the telephone survey. Follow-up mailed surveys sent to a sample of these people. We get two files from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One file contains all the phone numbers our call center will be dialing in a given month and the other file contains any addresses that are linked to those phone numbers through published phone directories. Lists and responses are kept separate for confidentiality. You received a paper questionnaire because our call center could not complete a telephone interview with you.

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14. How long will it take to complete the survey?
The survey takes around 25 minutes to complete, but can run a little shorter or longer depending on the number of questions asked and how long you take to answer each question. If it gets too long to complete at one time, you can always schedule a call back at a convenient time for you.

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