Learn how BRFSS data can be used ethically by independent researchers, and the ethical obligations of the independent researcher.
- [Narrator] Hello everyone. I hope you are getting excited about doing your own BRFSS analysis. This section talks about ethical use of BRFSS data for independent projects. The BRFSS is popular because the independent researcher can do a lot with the BRFSS data on her own. Notice that using BRFSS data has no IRB obligations. In other words, you don't have to get the designated human research ethics board to approve this research. This is because BRFSS data, due to its anonymous nature, is not technically human research data according to the common rule which establishes the IRBs.
It also does not have HIPAA obligations. HIPAA is the privacy act that governs the confidentiality of clinical data. And BRFSS does not have clinical data, so it's exempt from HIPAA. And since the data are produced as part of an anonymous survey and not by a covered entity or a CE as defined by HIPAA, the BRFSS data do not fall under the jurisdiction of HIPAA. This frees you up from having to engage ethical bodies in the review of your research. This feature can be particularly helpful for students who are on a timeline because the time needed for ethical review does not have to be figured into their timeline.
Because the data are already collected, master's theses and doctoral dissertations using BRFSS data can concentrate on analytic design rather than data collection. If you are in graduate school and want to use BRFSS data for your master's thesis or doctoral dissertation, please check with your advisor. Departments can have very picky rules as to what qualifies as an acceptable final analysis. The government wants you to analyze the BRFSS. Did you know you can apply for data analysis grants from NIH that will pay you to analyze the BRFSS and publish? Here is a great example.
If you go on Grants.gov, you can search for available grants by clicking on Search Grants. I found an example program announcement for what I'm talking about. It's PA-14-336, an R21 grant for Secondary Analyses of Existing Alcohol Epidemiology data. I know BRFSS Core has some alcohol consumption questions in it, so let's go look at this program announcement. Let's scroll down and look at the full announcement.
This is the kind of grant you can apply for to specify data analysis of existing data including BRFSS data. Next, just as the CDC and the states use BRFSS to conduct essentially a needs assessment, you can do the same thing too. Are you a non-profit trying to get your services to where they are needed most? Or maybe you're a business looking to provide health-related goods and services to market segments who want to buy them. Let's say your company produces an inexpensive natural remedy that reduces dental plaque buildup and can help reduce tooth loss.
Looking back at this paper we looked at before in MMWR, where should we try to sell this product? Arkansas or California? So as you can see, BRFSS data are not just for academic uses. Another big thing you can do with BRFSS data is build up your tenure packet if you are a new researcher. If you've got the time, the CDC's got your data. If you embark on a big analysis, don't forget. You can put in abstracts of your papers to present at conferences along your journey.
Here is an example where researchers presented a BRFSS abstract at a conference. Also, so many BRFSS research questions are interdisciplinary. For example, consider questions about the association between cardiovascular disease and gum disease like this article explored. To evaluate this, not only do you need someone who knows the analytics. You need someone who can cover the cardiology and someone who can cover the oral health. So, if you have the analytics skills, you can collaborate with other tenure-packet builders in your office and produce some nice peer-reviewed analyses that will impress your tenure committees.
In conclusion, not only is it ethical to download the BRFSS data and use it for analyses. It's encouraged. The more academic researchers analyze these data, the more we can learn about the U.S. population. We can leverage the data that the U.S. government has collected for maximum value. And also, if your company sells health-related products, BRFSS can provide the opportunity for market research.
This detailed, practical course is designed to help those in the field of public health, medicine, and data science to edit, analyze, and interpret data. Learn how to code new variables, use the forward-stepwise modeling process, and document your decisions. Find out how to visualize results by generating charts and graphics, and how to add tables and figures to your documentation. This course helps equip you to independently design, develop, and execute a full BRFSS analysis, and even publish your results in scientific publications or journals.
- Reviewing survey data and documentation
- Conducting a BRFSS analysis
- Understanding naming conventions
- Editing variables
- Reviewing distributions
- Generating an analytic dataset
- Developing descriptive statistics to answer prespecified hypotheses
- Preparing publication-worthy tables and plots