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

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Health statistics draw on many sources of information. Synthesizing data is important for the process.

Social Context of Health Sources
Each source reflects the expectations of the people who established the institutions that collect the information. In turn, each provides a distinct view of health correlates, conditions, care and consequences.

Because many of the major sources draw on records created to help provide service to patients they are shaped by service goals.

The resulting information is shaped by the relationship between their subjects and the people who compile the information. [For example, the relationship between a physician and a patient.]

The sources used include:
  • Population surveys—developed during the 20th century—now provide a large body of information
  • Surveys of providers—such as physicians, hospitals and nursing homes—are also an important source of information.
  • Vital statistics—drawn from the records of births, deaths, marriages and divorces—facilitate detailed analyses of particular conditions
  • Registers of diseases—such as cancer and AIDS—show the incidence, prevalence and outcomes of these threats.
  • Administrative records—such as those compiled during a hospital stay or at outpatient clinics or physician’s offices—provide another perspective.
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