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PH 195a: Special Study for Honors Candidates in Public Health: Finding Health Data & Statistics

How many and how much?

Public Health Library website

Finding Health Data

Presented by Michael Sholinbeck, Sheldon Margen Public Health Library, October 14, 2016

You can follow along step-by-step using this document: PDF | DOCX

Caution: Survey Ahead!

Lots of health data comes from surveys. Here are some issues to consider when looking at survey or estimated data:

  • Look at sample sizes and survey response rates - representative of your population? Enough responses to be valid?
  • Who was surveyed? - representative of population being compared to? Include group you are interested in?
  • Were the survey respondents from heterogeneous groups? Do the survey questions have a similar meaning to members of different groups?
  • How was survey conducted? Via telephone? - Many people only have cell phones. Random selection or targeted group?
  • What assumptions and methods were used for extrapolating the data?
  • Look at definitions of characteristics - Does this match your own definitions?
  • When was the data collected?

(Adopted from information on the UCSF Family Health Outcomes Project web site)

Reliability and Validity

Reliable data collection: relatively free from "measurement error."

  • Is the device used to measure elapsed time in an experiment accurate?
  • Is the survey written at a reading level too high for the people completing it?

Validity refers to how well a measure assesses what it claims to measure

  • If the survey is supposed to measure "quality of life," how is that concept defined?
  • How accurately can this animal study of drug metabolism be extrapolated to humans?

(Adopted from Chapter 3, Conducting research literature reviews : from the Internet to paper, by Arlene Fink; Sage, 2010.)

Q: What is "Health"?

A: Everything!

Statistics and data are available for a lot of things that maybe aren't directly "health" but are very much relevant to public health. Here's a few to pique your interest

Data and Statistics, California Department of Education
Data on school enrollment, non-English language learners, free lunch numbers, teacher data, class size, and much more.

Calif. Dept of Alcoholic Beverage Control: License query system
Find liquor stores, bars, etc. by zip code. Can also search by census tract.

Traffic Data Branch (CalTrans)
Traffic volumes, truck traffic, and ramp volume for California state highways. View tables, or download data as Excel files.

Want More ..?

This guide has only a small number of sources for health statistics and data. Many more may be found on the Public Health Library's Health Statistics & Data Resources guide.

Still can't find what you need? Ask us!

Hospitalizations for Mental Health Issues, ages 5-19, from

Hospitalizations for Mental Health Issues, ages 5-19

Find Health Statistics and Data Here

State and County QuickFacts (US Census)
Quickly get recent state, county, and city demographics (including age, race/ethnicity, income/employment, residence, and more - a huge amount of statistics) and business information.
» Get data: Census data is available form several sources

Access to a variety of reports, guidelines, and text-based and numeric databases, including vital statistics, environment, population, disease and disability, immunization, behavior and health, injuries, occupational health, and more.
» Export data to a tab-delimited text file

National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES)
NHANES is a survey that collects information about the health and diet of people in the United States. It is unique in that it combines a home interview with health tests that are done in a mobile examination center.
» Data is available under each survey year (eg, here is the link to 2013-2014 data)

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
The CHRs measure health factors, including high school graduation rates, obesity, smoking, unemployment, access to healthy foods, the quality of air and water, income, and teen births in nearly every county in America. Roadmaps provide guidance and tools to understand the data, and strategies that communities can use to move from education to action.
» Get Data!

California Health Interview Survey: AskCHIS
Quick access to state and local data on hundreds of health topics. Run your own customized search using AskCHIS (requires one-time, free registration), review publications and data summaries, and more. CHIS is the largest state health survey in the USA.
» Get Data!

Health Indicators Map Gallery
Designed for Community Health Needs Assessments. Pre-made, interactive maps of the United States down to census tract level for demographics, social and economic factors, physical environment, health behaviors, clinical care, and health outcomes.

Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health (HRSA)
Includes national and state-level data on hundreds of child health indicators from the National Survey of Children’s Health, National Health Interview Survey Child Component, Survey of Pathways to Diagnosis and Services, and National Survey of Children with Special Health Care Needs.
» Get (NSCH) Data! (The other surveys also have data analysis pages)
Find, customize, and share data on more than 400 measures of child health and well being. Data are available for every legislative district, city, county, and school district in California. Easily incorporate data into reports, presentations, grant proposals, policy decisions, media stories, and advocacy work. Search by region, by demographic group, or by topic.

OECD Health Statistics
Tables on health and health systems across OECD countries. OECD Health is an interactive database comprising data on a range of topics on the health care systems in the OECD Member countries and Accession countries, which are presented in a demographic, economic and social context. Some time series go back as far as 1960.
» Download data to Excel, CSV, PC-axis, XML.

Online query system based on data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. It provides access to health statistics and information on hospital inpatient and emergency department utilization. From the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US DHHS.
» Get Data!

PeriStats is developed by the March of Dimes Perinatal Data Center and provides access to maternal and infant health data for the United States and by state or region, including more than 60,000 graphs, maps, and tables.
» Export data as a CSV file.

Thank you!

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