Erie Vital Signs

Health Behaviors and Disease Prevention: Fair or Poor Health Status

Recent Performance

This trend is mixed or inconclusive.

The percentage of adults in Erie County who reported fair or poor health status in 2013* was 19 percent compared to 17 percent for adults in both Pennsylvania and the United States.

Since 1999, the health status of adults in Erie County has fluctuated from a low of 14 percent in 2007 to a high of 19 percent in 2013*. A similar trend can also be seen for Pennsylvania adults.

Many factors can influence individual health status. Among them are education, income, and age. Increasing age brings with it a general decline in health status. Higher education and income levels increase the likelihood of improved health status. Among the findings in 2013* are higher rates of fair or poor health for adults who have less than a high school education, adults whose income is below $25,000, and those whose age is 65 and above.

*2013 indicates data for the period 2011-2013

Note: Much of the data for the Health Indicators come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey. Each metro area decides whether or not to participate each year, so these indicators often do not have data for every year for every metro area. As a result, the graphs show markers (dots, diamonds, etc.) for the individual years rather than lines. If there are data for consecutive years, the markers will be joined with a line on the graphs.

The Basics

This indicator reports the percentage of Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey respondents who chose “Poor” or “Fair” in response to the survey question: Would you say that in general your health is:

1. Excellent, 2. Very good, 3. Good, 4. Fair, 5. Poor

Why is this important?

With almost 1 in 5 Erie County adults reporting only fair or poor health, this variable indicates work yet to be accomplished in the area of health for Erie County residents. A lower number is better, of course.

The Details

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Survey is a telephone based health survey of adults age 18 and above. Both landline and cell phone users are included. Initiated in 1984 by the Centers for Disease Control, it is now administered nationally, statewide, regionally, and locally. The survey focuses on health care access, health conditions, risk behaviors, and preventive health practices. Standardized questions allow comparison among various population groups. For 2013*, Erie County used 3-Year Sum County Level data, for years 2011-2013, which was provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Similar 3-Year Sum data for Pennsylvania was used for comparison.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

  • BRFSS Information at the Erie County Department of Health’s Data, Statistics & Reports Site.
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health BRFSS Behavioral Risks, PA Adults
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BRFSS Home Page CDC - BRFSS
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BRFSS Prevalence and Trends Data - Start Page
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Selected Metropolitan/Micropolitan Area Risk Trends SMART BRFSS Home Page


This EVS indicator has no subcategories. The raw data for Erie County do provide data for subcategories based on sex, age, education, income, and race.

Peer Areas

The BRFSS data are available for Erie, the state of Pennsylvania, and the United States. Data is also available for the following thirteen peer selected metropolitan/micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs): Akron OH, Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton PA-NJ, Boulder CO, Cedar Rapids IA, Flint MI, Gainesville FL, Green Bay WI, Kalamazoo-Portage MI, Lansing-East Lansing MI, Laredo TX, Peoria IL, Roanoke VA, and Spartanburg SC.


Erie County completes a BRFSS every four to five years. The survey is administered every year at the state and national level.


Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey, administered by the Erie County Department of Health following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pennsylvania Department of Health 3-Year Sum County Level data. Links to the data are given above under “All the Nitty-Gritty Details”.

Other Related Data

Additional Studies and Research

  • Health-Related Quality of Life — United States, 2006 and 2010, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Related Quality of Life 2006 vs. 2010
  • Surveillance for Certain Health Behaviors Among States and Selected Local Areas — Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, United States, 2011, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011 Surveillance
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health, United States, Products - Health United States Homepage

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