Finding health statistics begins with identifying who has a responsibility or interest in collecting the data. In the United States, the government—local, state, and federal—often have either a responsibility (in the case of vital statistics such as births, marriages, divorces, fetal deaths, and death) or an interest (e.g., the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Diseases collects and maintains statistics on diabetes as well as other diseases) in collecting statistical data. In tandem with the government, health associations or advocacy organizations will also collect statistical data, commissioning surveys or studies to locate the information. Health information that involves the private or quasi-private sector can be more challenging to obtain. Data on procedures performed by hospitals or physicians, for example, are more difficult to locate in a systematic and comprehensive fashion.
Know how to analyze your statistics query or information need to determine the best sources of statistics information
Know who the major producers or collectors of health statistics are
Know how to quickly and efficiently find basic statistics
To locate health statistics, the government—federal, state, and local—is often a good place to start. Government Websites, and in particular the Website of the National Center for Health Statistics, can answer many—if not most—health statistics questions.
There are statistics on every disease.
FALSE: Not every disease is reportable, so statistics on a number of diseases are estimates only.
I can get statistics from the current year.
FALSE: It takes a number of years for statistics to be compiled and assessed. Usually, the most accurate statistics are at least two years old.
The Statistical Abstract contains a collection of statistics on social and economic conditions in the United States. While it is available online at http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/ (link opens new window), it can be difficult to use. The Statistical Abstract may best be used in print. It is available in nearly all public and medical libraries.