Thursday, Jun 1, 2023

Why Public Birth Records Are Essential for Medical Research and Public Health Studies

Births, deaths, and other life events are essential, from tracking basic statistics to helping people access benefits or services. Vital records also help jurisdictions to measure health and create effective public health programs.

Public health researchers study population health and this state’s determinants (biological, behavioral, social, or environmental). Data from these studies inform the development of policies and interventions that improve population health.


The information on birth certificates is a crucial ingredient in public health measurement and policy analysis. The data on live births, infant mortality, and fetal deaths are essential in measuring progress toward national and local goals related to reproductive health and childhood survival.

However, to be helpful for these purposes, the information must travel from the point of production to those whose decision-making depends on it. As a result, the Federal Government reports national birth and mortality statistics with a lag of 12 to 15 months after the close of a year.

This lag makes it challenging to identify infants at risk of death, guide national immunization programs, or track the impact of epidemics on local populations. The lag also impedes timely feedback to regions and institutions at the epicenter of high rates of congenital disabilities or other adverse outcomes.

Consequently, the Federal Government is currently working to redesign its birth certificate systems and processes. In the short term, it aims to reduce the lag in releasing birth data to six months.

In the long term, the Federal Government is looking to transmit birth data on a continuous-flow basis electronically. This will dramatically reduce the reporting delay and help improve the quality of vital statistics. This reengineering will require a significant investment by the States and the Federal Government.


The data on a certificate of birth or births and deaths in public birth records are essential for medical research and public health studies. They help us understand how populations grow and change and how life expectancy varies across regions and among different groups of people.

These data are used to measure the effectiveness of population-based health programs, to monitor and evaluate trends in health outcomes, and to identify the causes of disease and disability. They also provide information to help guide and direct prevention and intervention strategies to improve people’s health in the United States.

To produce these data, statisticians, and analysts in DVS use various methods. For example, they may conduct experiments in which participants are randomly assigned to treatment groups or control groups. They may also do direct observation, observing a person in a setting without asking them questions.

Another method is participant observation, where they observe a group of people in an activity or environment. The researcher might record their thoughts, feelings, and reactions in this case. The results of these observations are reported in a report. Occasionally, researchers will conduct a follow-back survey to collect information on how the participants changed after participating in an experiment or exposure to a particular group of people. This is a common approach in many research fields.


Birth certificate data are essential for medical research and public health studies. They provide information about the use of prenatal care, maternal sociodemographic and behavioral data, place of birth, complications of pregnancy and labor, and Apgar scores.

Hospitals are the traditional record-keeping organizations involved in births and have been the primary data source for many years. However, managed care plans are increasingly building enterprise-wide information systems that link hospitals with physicians and other providers. These networks are becoming more connected than ever before and are expected to be able to generate more accurate records about the prenatal care and delivery experiences of subscribers.

Nonetheless, there are some limitations to using hospital data in medical research and public health studies. For example, hospital data are often incomplete and contain underreporting of midwife-attended deliveries and misclassifying women’s intended delivery places, particularly for planned home births.

In addition, some hospital birth records do not include information about the health status of the mother or infant. Because of this, researchers may have to use other sources of information or rely on supplemental data.

While birth certificates are incomplete, they are very accurate regarding the delivery method and birth weight and represent the standard measure for research on birth outcomes. They are also available nationwide and can be accessed online.


When evaluating the best way to collect and analyze vital statistics, it is essential to understand what public birth records can tell us. These include information about the use of prenatal care, maternal sociodemographic and behavioral data, place of birth, and medical and obstetric complications.

The Standard Certificate of Live Birth, created by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), is an excellent starting point for collecting vital statistics data. However, it has its problems. For example, the data need to be completed, with underreporting of midwife-attended deliveries and misclassification of women’s intended place of birth, especially for planned home births.

It is also difficult to capture data on a large scale and for long periods. Thus, follow-back surveys have been conducted by NCHS to provide an opportunity to collect more detailed information.

To ensure that the National Center for Health Statistics can adequately assess needs and resources in the health field, it is essential to promptly collect as much vital statistics information as possible. This includes using new technologies to automate data collection from the source and incorporating them into responsive electronic transmission and linkage systems.