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National Information Center on Health Services Research and Health Care Technology (NICHSR)

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Introduction to Health Services Research : A Self-Study Course

Module 3: Selected Players (Federal and Private) (Page 6 of 27)

National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS)

Snapshot of the NCHS home page. Click to visit the site. Close the open window to return to this page.

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/) collects and disseminates data on major health indicators affecting the population.

NCHS grew out of the National Health Survey Act of 1956 that provided for a "continuing survey and special studies to secure accurate and current statistical information on the amount, distribution, and effects of illness and disability in the United States and the services rendered for or because of such conditions."

This survey is now known as the National Health Interview Survey. NCHS has conducted this survey since 1960 when the National Health Survey and the National Vital Statistics Division were combined to form NCHS.

The first Director of NCHS was Forrest E. Linder, a statistician and a former Census Bureau expert in the area of demographic statistics.

Survey Data

NCHS conducts numerous surveys including the National Health Care survey, National Ambulatory Care Survey, National Immunization Survey, and National Hospital Discharge Survey among others.

Data is presented by age, among other descriptors so that specific groups, such as adolescents can be isolated. Data may also be downloaded for analysis. Examine the Micro-data Access link for links to Public-use data files and documentation, the NCHS Data Warehouse, the SETS program, CDC Wonder, Healthy People DATA2010, and Data Ferrett.

Reference Content

For reference material the NCHS site cannot be overlooked. Statistical reports, morbidity and mortality information, health resource utilization, and surveys represent some of the information available. Information is disseminated in a wide variety of publications. Of special interest to librarians serving researchers is FASTATS A to Z.

Data Warehouse

Snapshot of the NCHS Data Warehouse. This image opens in a new window. Close the window to return to this page.The Data Warehouse is worth studying. It is an important repository for tabulated health and state data, micro-data, morbidity and mortality data, ICD9 Clinical Modification, and database searches and queries.

The Center responds to inquiries from consumers and professionals. It maintains many data files and is a national resource for health and health-related data information.

Notification Services

NCHS staff have set up numerous listservs that you can subscribe to for information about various datasets, GIS, and to get announcements of the newest data. Examples of notification listservs include

Note: NLM and NCHS have put Health, United States 2004 in the NLM Bookshelf. Here you can search the text, view the full or shortened table of contents, and the tables and figures. You may also download the full volume in PDF.

NCHS's Importance

NCHS plays a crucial role in health services research by collecting the data needed in many important research areas including the status of America's health and in measuring the impact and effectiveness of health policies and programs.

Additional information about NCHS can be found in Module 2.

Discussion Questions

  1. Visit the NCHS Web site and explore it. Describe something that you found on the site that you did not expect to find. Why is what you found useful or interesting? How would you or your colleagues use what you found in your work with health services researchers or other health professionals? Do you see this site becoming a favorite site - one that you should visit often - or is it already a favorite link in your browser?
  2. Discuss/describe why NCHS's data are a national treasure.
  3. Examine the links and content from the Data Warehouse [Internet Archive]. What makes this page of special interest to librarians and to health services researchers?
  4. In 1999 "the first Centers for Excellence in Health Statistics were funded by NCHS, for the purpose of improving data collection systems to help develop and evaluate prevention programs. Current projects include addressing statistical issues aimed at health promotion and disease prevention in high-risk populations; addressing issues central to the field of survey research-cognition, technology, and nonresponse; and developing methodology that can be applied to issues such as the effects of smoking on public health and on racial disparities in health status and outcomes." Why are these Centers of interest to librarians? To researchers? Note the topics covered by the Centers. Is it worth following up these topics and others that have been addressed by the Centers? (Note: Three Centers are funded through an NCHS extramural program so that you would have to look on the Web for the Centers to see the results of their work).
  5. The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics plays an important role in advising the Secretary of Health and Human Services and in providing a forum for interested groups to provide input on important data issues. This is an important committee and is worth investigating. What work has been done recently by the committee? Has that work had an impact on the work done by health services researchers? A good place to start is the NCVHS publications page.
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