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2003 National Healthcare Quality Report

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National Vital Statistics System--Mortality (NVSS-M)


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).

Mode of Administration

Administrative records (death certificates) completed by physicians, coroners, medical examiners, and funeral directors are filed with state vital statistics offices; selected statistical information is forwarded to NCHS to be merged into a national statistical file. Beginning with 1989, revised standard certificates replaced the 1978 versions; implementation of the next scheduled revision, for 2003, is being phased in by the states. Demographic information on the death certificate is provided by the funeral director and is based on information supplied by an informant. Medical certification of cause of death is provided by the physician, medical examiner, or coroner.

Survey Sample Design

NVSS mortality files include data for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas. All deaths occurring in those areas are included (approximately 2.2 to 2.3 million annually).

Standard forms for the collection of the data and model procedures for the uniform registration of the events are developed and recommended for state use through cooperative activities of the states and NCHS.

Software is available to automate coding of medical information on the death certificate, following World Health Organization rules specified in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD).

Primary Survey Content

Year of death, place of decedent's residence, place death occurred, age at death, day of week and month of death, Hispanic origin, race, marital status (beginning in 1979), place of birth, gender, underlying and multiple causes of death for all states, injury at work (beginning in 1993), hospital and patient status, educational attainment (beginning in 1989) for selected states, and occupation and industry (beginning in 1985) for selected states.

Population Targeted

The U.S. population.

Demographic Data

Gender, race, Hispanic origin (beginning in 1984), age at death, place of decedent's residence, educational attainment (beginning in 1989) for selected states, marital status, and industry and occupation for selected states. Race and ethnic origin are separate items on the death certificate. Beginning with 1992 data, California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Washington reported expanded Asian and Pacific Islander categories of Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Samoan, and Guamanian. The rest of the states reported a combined Other Asian and Pacific Islander category in addition to the categories of white, black, American Indian, Chinese, Hawaiian, Japanese, and Filipino that all states report. As of 1997, all states report Hispanic origin. The categories reported include Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American, and Other Hispanic. Previously published mortality rates for 2000 have been revised using populations from the 2000 census; revised rates for the 1990s will be available in early fall, 2003.

Years Collected

The data system began in 1880 but not all states participated before 1933. Coverage for deaths has been complete since 1933.



Geographic Estimates

National, regional, state, and county. Beginning with 1989 data, some changes were initiated to increase confidentiality protection. Identifying information including date of death and geographic identifiers for counties of less than 100,000 persons is not available for public use.

Place of death is classified by state and county. In residence classification, all deaths are allocated to the usual place of residence as reported on the death certificate and are classified by state, county, and city.

Contact Information

Agency homepage:

Data system homepage:


MiniƱo AM, Arias E, Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Smith BL. Deaths: Final Data for 2000. National vital statistics reports; vol. 50 no. 15. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2002.

Anderson RN and Arias E. The Effect of Revised Populations on Mortality Statistics for the United States, 2000. National vital statistics reports; vol. 51 no. 9. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2003.

For information about 2001 data, see:

Arias E and Smith BL. Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2001. National vital statistics reports; vol. 51 no. 6. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. 2003.

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