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Disability and Health Data System (DHDS)



This page contains answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Disability and Health Data System (DHDS). It is intended as a resource for DHDS users. Therefore, many answers contain technical terms specific to DHDS. The Glossary contains definitions of commonly used terms.

Data Source and Methodology

Where does Disability and Health Data System (DHDS) get its data?

Most data displayed in DHDS come from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The BRFSS is a state-based telephone interview in which an interviewer asks questions on a variety of health risks and behaviors, chronic conditions, and demographics. For more information on the BRFSS, you can visit:

Additional data sources used to calculate disability-associated healthcare expenditures are: the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), and the National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA). More information on these sources can be found in the following article: Anderson WL, Armour BS, Finkelstein EA, Wiener JM. Estimates of state-level health-care expenditures associated with disability. Public Health Rep. 2010;125:44–51.

Why are the percentages age-adjusted?

Disability often is associated with older age. Age-adjustment is a technique that minimizes the effects of age and allows for meaningful comparisons across populations with different age distributions. For example, if state “A” had a very young population, and state “B” had an older population, you would expect a higher percentage of people with disabilities in state “B” because of the older age of the population. By age-adjusting to a standard age distribution, the percentage of people with disabilities in state “A” and state “B” can be compared directly.

How often will data be added?

DHDS strives to display the latest data available. We aim to add BRFSS data within 1 year following the annual public release.

The United States & Territories estimates are different than estimates I have seen elsewhere. Why?

National estimates from other surveys might appear slightly different due to survey methodology, survey population, definitions of the indicators, and analytical techniques. The estimates presented here for United States & Territories are meant to be used more as benchmarks with which to compare your state or area, not as comparisons with other national surveys. In DHDS, United States & Territories estimates are calculated from the aggregate of the state and territory data.

For some indicators, when I subtract the prevalence estimate among adults without disability from the estimate among adults with disability, the result does not exactly match the disparity value for that indicator. Why is that?

This may occur due to rounding. All estimates in DHDS are rounded to one decimal place after analysis. Disparity is calculated by the statistical software package prior to rounding. Therefore, subtracting the rounded with disability and without disability estimates may result in a slightly different disparity estimate than the one shown in the system. The difference, if any, should be very small.

Why do some disparity estimates indicate positive numbers and some negative numbers?

When looking at a health topic or demographic indicator, a disparity is a percentage point difference calculated as the percentage among adults with any disability minus the percentage among adults without any disability. When the percentage among adults with any disability is greater than the percentage among adults without any disability the disparity estimate will be a positive number. When the percentage among adults with any disability is less than the percentage among adults without any disability the disparity estimate will be a negative number.

Why do the prevalence estimates of the disability types not add up to the prevalence estimate of any disability?

The mobility, cognitive, vision, self-care, and independent living disability types are not mutually exclusive, meaning that people can report more than one type of disability. A person is categorized as having any disability if he or she has one or more disability types. Therefore, while someone may have two or more disability types, they are only counted once in the prevalence calculation for any disability.

Data Availability

What kinds of data are included in DHDS?

DHDS contains three types of data: Disability Status and Types, Limitation Status, and Psychological Distress Status. Disability Status and Types data are available for a number of demographic and health indicators and can be viewed in Maps & Data Tables, State Profiles, and Dual Area Profiles. Limitation Status and Psychological Distress Status data are available for some of the indicators and can be viewed in State Profiles.

Indicators are grouped into: Disability Estimates, Demographics, Health Risks & Behaviors, Prevention & Screenings, Barriers & Costs of Health Care, General Health Conditions, Chronic Conditions, and Mental & Emotional Health.

DHDS also contains data on disability-associated healthcare expenditures.

Does DHDS have information on types of disability?

Yes. DHDS provides information on cognitive, mobility, vision, self-care, and independent living types of disability, using data from BRFSS, which began collecting these data in 2013. See the DHDS data guide for the definitions of these disability types.

In 2013, BRFSS did not assess deafness or serious difficulty hearing. Therefore data on the number of people who have hearing difficulties was not collected. BRFSS will begin collecting this information in 2016.

Does DHDS provide data on hearing disability?

No. DHDS does not include data on hearing disability at this time. In 2013, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which is the data source DHDS uses, began asking five of the six questions used by the Department of Health and Human Services to assess disability. The sixth question, “Are you deaf or do you have serious difficulty hearing?”, was not included on BRFSS. However, BRFSS will begin including this question on the 2016 questionnaire.

How do I find the definition and other information for an indicator?

You can find indicator definitions in the DHDS data guide, which you can view here. This guide provides information about how each indicator is defined and analyzed.

Which geographic levels are available for the data?

Data are available at the state, division, region, and national levels. Data for all geographic levels are available on all maps and data tables. On a map click State or Census Area Table to view all geographic levels of data; on a data table scroll to the bottom of the table to view division, region, and national levels.

Why are there no data for my state or territory?

There are three reasons there might not be data available for a state or territory:

  • Data for a state or territory might have been suppressed due to either a small sample size or unreliable estimates. This is represented by the acronym DS (data suppressed).
  • A state or territory might not have participated in the BRFSS for a given year. This is represented by the acronym NA (not available).
  • Only 37 states included the psychological distress questions module in 2007. Those that did not participate are represented by the acronym NA.

About Using DHDS

What is the difference between State Profiles and Dual Area Profiles?

State profiles provide a snapshot of key statistics across multiple indicators for one state or one territory. Dual area profiles provide information on multiple indicators for two geographic areas displayed side by side. In the dual area profiles, you can choose to look at two states or a state and the United States & Territories total.

Can I customize a profile?

No. All of the indicators in profiles have been predetermined and cannot be customized. However, you can choose the geographic area(s) for which you want to view indicator information. If you want to look at only one state, use State Profiles. If you want to view two states or the United States & Territories, use Dual Area Profiles.

How do I download DHDS data?

To download data, use Maps & Data Tables to find an indicator. Once you click on an indicator data view, the next page provides display options to view the data. Click Data Table (Excel) or Data Table (CSV) to download the data to your computer. Additionally, on the maps page there is a link on the top right of the page to download the data. On the customizable data table, you can download the table you have built using the link in the light green banner.

I do not know the region and division of my state. How do I find out which it is in?

This information can be found in the area notes of each geographic feature. If you are viewing an interactive map or interactive comparison map, you can click on the notes icon (it looks like a piece of paper) to the left of your state name in the data table. This will open Area Notes in a new window, and the section labeled Locations provides information about a state’s region and division. If you are viewing a customizable data table, click the information icon (blue circle with a lowercase “i”) to the right of your state name to view the same Area Notes page. This information also is available in the Excel download on the Area Lookup tab.

How do I save an individual element of an interactive map (map, bar chart, or table) or all of an interactive map so I can use it in a presentation?

If you would like to include an individual element (map, bar chart, or table) in a presentation, we have two suggestions:

  • Download and save as an image: You can download the element by clicking the downward pointing arrow with the horizontal line under it in the top right corner of the element. A window with an image of the enlarged element will open. For the map and bar chart, a window will open with an enlarged image. Right-click on the map or bar chart image to save (Save picture as…), email (Email picture…), or print (Print picture…). You then can insert the image file into the application you are using to create your presentation. For the data table, a window will open with the data in text format. Select the data from the window and right-click to Copy it.
  • Screen capture: You can capture a picture of your desktop by holding down Ctrl and Print Screen, or by using a screen-grabbing software. You then can paste the captured picture into the application you are using and edit (crop, resize, sharpen, etc.) it to suit your presentation.

If you would like to include all of the interactive map in your presentation, you must use the screen capture method.

What is CSV, or comma-separated values?

CSV is a type of simple file format commonly used to transfer tabular data into a spreadsheet or database. This format is particularly useful for users without access to Excel.

The menus, images, and text look jumbled and out-of-place, or are missing on some pages within DHDS. What is happening and how do I fix it?

If you are using Internet Explorer, your browser might be in Compatibility View. DHDS has issues with displaying in Compatibility View, and this view needs to be turned off in your browser. Follow these steps to turn off Compatibility View. If you complete these steps and still have trouble, or are having problems in a browser other than Internet Explorer, contact us at

  1. Open Internet Explorer.
  2. Open the Tools menu. If you do not see the Tools menu, press Alt, then click Tools.
  3. If Compatibility View is checked, click it to uncheck it.
  4. If Compatibility View is not checked, click Compatibility View Settings.
  5. Uncheck ‘Display all websites in Compatibility View’ if it is checked.
  6. Uncheck ‘Display intranet sites in Compatibility View’ if it is checked.
  7. Remove from ‘Websites you’ve added to Compatibility View’ if it is there. Do this by selecting in the list, and click Remove.
  8. When you are finished making changes to the settings, click Close.


I have other questions. Whom should I ask?

You can email the DHDS team at and we will be happy to answer any questions.

How do I cite DHDS?

To cite data or information obtained from DHDS, please use the following text: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability and Health Data System (DHDS). [updated year month date; cited year month date]. Available from: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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