Opinion

Viewpoint

"Burfus is coming. Burfus is coming.No, not the British, and not your shirttail cousin from Kentucky. It's just a catchy acronym for Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). But this acronym and its associated phone survey can make a huge difference in bettering the health of your community. As a bonus, you might even win a dinner at Café Langley and night at the Compass Rose B&B.So if you're one of the 800 or so Island County residents called, please consider volunteering 20 to 25 minutes of your time. The surveyor will ask some completely confidential questions about your health, health care and health-related habits. Your answers will help determine where the Island County Health Department should concentrate its efforts and resources over the next several years. The information will also help Whidbey General Hospital and social service agencies such as CADA to evaluate their programs, make needed changes and justify funding grants.I realize some people are not going to be happy about getting out of the shower to answer these questions, said Tim McDonald, Island County Health Services Director, but this little inconvenience can help us all toward a healthier community.BRFSS is a standard questionnaire developed by the Centers for Disease Control and used nationally. The survey will also add some questions related to our local community and environment. Survey topics will span a wide range of topics, including: demographic factors such as age, education and ethnic background; health measures such as insurance and health providers; conditions such as diabetes and heart disease; health-related behaviors such as exercise, tobacco and alcohol use; preventive measures such as immunization and mammograms.Like the U.S. Census, the information you provide will help set legislative and funding priorities. These include efforts to reduce the number of preventable illnesses, injuries and deaths - estimated at more than a million every year nationwide. It will allow planners to identify the most pressing health issues and develop strategies to combat them, including education and direct intervention where possible and appropriate.The last BRFSS in 1996 revealed telling information on alcohol and tobacco use, injury prevention, domestic violence, child abuse and teen pregnancy. That survey led to a number of grants and the formation of imperative groups to address the problems. Along with its other functions, the 2000 BRFSS will help determine the success of those efforts and where to concentrate new efforts.Gilmore Research Group will conduct the survey in August and November of this year at a total cost of about $30,000, not including approximately $10,000 needed next year for analysis. Of the total, all but $5,000 will come from non-government contributions. Contributors were: Whidbey General Hospital ($5,000), Whidbey Island Hospital Foundation ($5,000), Island County Health & Safety Network ($4,000), Affiliated Health Services ($1,000) and Washington Health Foundation ($5,000).BRFSS is coming. Please don't hang up on a healthier community.Trish Rose is a community relations specialist with Whidbey General Hospital. "

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