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Collecting, Using, and Disseminating Health Data on Minority Populations

Status Indicators


Patricia M. Golden, M.P.H., former Special Assistant for Minority Health Data, Division of Analysis, Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Edna Paisano, M.S.W., Principal Statistician, Indian Health Service (IHS), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

This session addressed how collecting data by race and ethnicity can be used to help understand race-associated differences in health status.

Patricia Golden described population-based measures of health status, including morbidity and mortality data and vital statistics. She discussed several major data sources for health status indicators, including:

  • National Vital Statistics System—Principle source of data on births and deaths.
  • National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)—Principle source of information on the health of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the U.S.
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)—Tracks risks among adults associated with premature morbidity and mortality.
  • National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)—Collects information about the health and diet of people in the United States.
  • National Hospital Discharge Survey—Provides information on characteristics about inpatients discharged from non-Federal, short stay hospitals in the U.S.
  • Youth Behavioral Risk Surveillance System (YRBSS)—School-based survey to assess health-risk behavior among youth and young adults.
  • Linked births/Infant Death Data Set—Used to overcome discrepant reporting of race, especially for minority categories other than Black.
  • Compressed Mortality File—County-level national mortality and populations database that provides counts and rates of death.

Edna Paisano described the data sources used by the Indian Health Service (IHS), including:

  • 1990 Decennial Census Data—Used to calculate vital events data, develop budget justifications, estimate service area access to IHS services, and analyze the growth rate of the service populations.
  • National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Vital Events Files—Used to project the service population for IHS service areas and prepare vital event statistics on American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN).
  • IHS Patient Care Database—Used to produce user population estimates and patient data on leading causes of hospitalization, ambulatory medical visits, clinical impressions, and for Government Performance Reporting Act (GPRA) reporting.

She explained that IHS data are the only data below the national level on health status of AI/AN. She also offered contact information for accessing national and tribal IHS data, as well as items to consider for data acceptance by a Federal or State agency, or other organization.

Additional Resources

Jones CP. Invited Commentary: 'Race,' Racism, and the Practice of Epidemiology. American Journal of Epidemiology 2001;154(4).

Regional Differences in Indian Health: 1998-99. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service, Office of Public Health, Division of Community and Environmental Health, Program Statistics Team.

Trends in Indian Health: 1998-99. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service, Office of Public Health, Program Statistics Team.

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