Identifying relevant health-related statistics can be a challenge. Statistics are kept by groups as diverse as the World Health Organization, the U.S. Department of Energy, and Counting California. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the information available, there is no single way to start looking. Here are several points to consider when doing your search:
|Is there a government or private agency that would care about your statistic?
||All levels of government, from the United Nations down to individual cities, produce statistics in the course of fulfilling their individual missions. Often these statistics are then made available either in print form or on the Internet. Many private organizations also offer public access to information they collect. Identify an appropriate agency, then search their web site and print publications, or contact the agency directly.
|Do you need very current or historical statistics?
||Most organizations need one to three years to compile statistics before they are published. When looking for more current information, check in recent journals, newspapers, and press releases. While many statistics are available online, most data prior to 1960 exists only in print format. Reports that compare data from different years may also be available.
|What type of statistics do you need? (Vital, demographic, health, etc.)
||Different types of statistics are offered by different sources and organizations. Some examples of statistic types relevant to biomedical study include:
- Vital statistics are records of births, marriages, divorces, and deaths
- Demographics describe a specific population group, often defined by geographic region
- Health statistics, also called mortality and/or morbidity statistics, detail the incidence of certain diseases and conditions. (This information may also be found both in vital statistics and in mortality and morbidity reports.)
|What level of statistics do you need?
||Resources often differ greatly from the national or international level to the local level. To find relevant data, choose an organization close to the area of interest. E.g., regarding the incidence of an illness in Los Angeles, thry the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. The Centers for Disease Control would offer incidence of an illness at the national level, and the World Health Organization at the international level.