Vital Statistics: Birth, Marriage, Divorce, Fetal Death, Death
The registration of vital statistics is a state responsibility, reported to the federal government. Statistics on births, marriages, divorces, fetal deaths, and death are available from the National Vital Statistics System at the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The NCHS' Website is the repository for the federal government's reports, tables and publications of the national health surveys. Since maintenance of vital statistics is a state responsibility, it is also possible to go directly to a specific state's government Website for more in-depth statistics. The NCHS maintains a list of links to state health departments.
Notifiable diseases or reportable diseases
For public health purposes, selected diseases are "notifiable" diseases or diseases that each state identifies as a condition that each physician must report to the state. Each state, in turn, reports—on a volutary basis—these statistics to the federal government, specifically to the CDC's National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. The national notifiable disease list changes annually but for the current year (2003) includes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), anthrax, botulism, Chlamydia, cholera, diphtheria, encephalitis/meningitis, arboviral, Escherichia coli, giardiasis, gonorrhea, influenzae, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, hemolytic uremic syndrome, post-diarrheal, hepatitis, HIV, lyme disease, malaria, measles, meningococcal disease, mumps, pertussis, plague, polio, rabies, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, rubella, salmonellosis, shigellosis, streptococcal disease, syphilis, tetanus, toxic-shock syndrome, tuberculosis, typhoid fever, yellow fever. A complete list of national notifiable diseases is available. Weekly and annual statistical reports of these diseases are published in the CDC's Morbidity Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Diseases are reported at the state and some are reported at the city level.
Other diseases and conditions
For diseases and conditions that are not notifiable to state governments, the NCHS uses surveys and a data collection system. The surveys collect data through personal or telephone interviews and are on specific topics: ambulatory care, nursing home, disability, hospice, nutrition. The data collection system uses medical records and vital statistics records to collect data on births, deaths and immunizations, for example. Data from these surveys and systems are collected annually or periodically. Data are made available in published or Web-only reports.
For each disease or condition or health care provider there may be multiple interested groups that may also obtain and maintain statistics on the disease or deliverer of health care. For example, while the NCHS has data on nursing homes; so does the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. NCHS has statistics on asthma; so does the American Lung Association. While an association may draw on the statistics from the NCHS, it will sometimes obtain additional statistics or present the government data in a format that is easier to read or understand.
In addition to the NCHS, there are a number of other government institutes or centers that research disease or health conditions and therefore have statistics as well, often published on the institute's home page or in a government health Website for the public, such as the National Institute of Health's HealthFinder or the National Library of Medicine's MedlinePlus. The National Institutes of Health is comprised of 28 offices, institutes, or centers that include the National Eye Institute, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Each of the home pages of these organizations provide basic information about the diseases they are researching and some basic statistics.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality hosts a Website, HCUPnet (part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project). HCUPnet generates statistics using data from HCUP's Nationwide Inpatient Sample (NIS), the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID), and the State Inpatient Databases (SID). The online query system analyzes health statistics and information on hospital stays at the national, regional, and state level.