Decades ago, how long you lived depended mostly on fate.  Infectious diseases, poor sanitation and unsafe conditions called the shots.  However, because of advances in public health, much of the fate part is gone and the risk factors for premature death are dominated by behavioral and lifestyle choices.  Of course, income and access to resources are a factor, but behavior choices play a very important role.  Our job is to help people make better choices and give the them resources and or education to execute those choices.

In order to effectively target our interventions we need to know the behavioral trends and the demographic background so that we can target our resources effectively.  That’s where our annual Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS) plays a role.   We conduct the survey every year (using federal funds) to help keep a pulse on how we’re doing.  We just completed the analyses for the 2009 survey, which is posted on our Vital Statistics website.

There are numerous examples of how we use the data in this report, smoking rate is one example.  From previous BRFS reports, we know that AZ’s overall smoking rate is declining, from about 24% in 2002 to about 16% last year.  The demographic information in the study tells us that the highest smoking rates are among those folks with the lowest incomes (26% of people making less than $25K/year smoke while only 8% of people making more than $75K smoke).  That’s key information because it gives our tobacco prevention folks a better idea of who to target with cessation messaging and resources (like AHCCCS recipients).

Judy Bass was the point person for this year’s report.  Well done Judy!