To promote the health and quality of life of United States residents, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – with 54 state and territorial health agencies – has supported population surveillance of health-related quality of life (HRQOL). HRQOL was defined as "perceived physical and mental health over time." Commonly-used measures of health status and activity limitation were identified and a set of "Healthy Days" HRQOL measures was developed and validated. A core set of these measures (the CDC HRQOL-4) asks about self-rated general health and the number of recent days when a person was physically unhealthy, mentally unhealthy, or limited in usual activities. A summary measure combines physically and mentally unhealthy days. From 1993 to 2001, more than 1.2 million adults responded to the CDC HRQOL-4 in each state-based Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) telephone interview. More than one fifth of all BRFSS respondents also responded to a set of related questions – including five items that assess the presence, main cause and duration of a current activity limitation, and the need for activity-related personal and routine care; as well as five items that ask about recent days of pain, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and vitality.
The Healthy Days surveillance data are particularly useful for finding unmet health needs, identifying disparities among demographic and socioeconomic subpopulations, characterizing the symptom burden of disabilities and chronic diseases, and tracking population patterns and trends. The full set of 14 Healthy Days Measures (the CDC HRQOL-14) has shown good measurement properties in several populations, languages, and settings. The brief standard CDC HRQOL-4 is now often used in surveys, surveillance systems, prevention research, and population health report cards.