Finding and Using Health Statistics

3. Health Data Sources

Peer-Reviewed Literature

Peer-reviewed journal articles have gone through an evaluation process in which journal editors and other expert scholars critically assess the quality and scientific merit of the article and its research. Articles that pass this process are published in the peer-reviewed literature. Peer-reviewed journals may include the research of scholars who have collected their own data using an experimental study design, survey, or various other study methodologies. They also present the work of researchers who have performed novel analyses of existing data sources, such as the ones described in this section.

Leading Health-Related Journals

  • The New England Journal of Medicine
  • Health Affairs
  • Epidemiologic Reviews
  • American Journal of Public Health
  • The Milbank Quarterly
  • Medical Care

There are several benefits of using peer-reviewed literature, including: the process ensures that the quality of the research and validity of the findings are high, information is available on highly-detailed subject matter and complex analyses, and it is easy to search through millions of articles with online databases.

There are limitations to using peer-reviewed literature, however, including: highly-detailed and complex analyses may be irrelevant for users who are simply searching for descriptive statistics and basic measures of public health; may require a subscription to journals or databases to access articles (which can be costly for individuals, although many universities and other organizations provide access to students and faculty); and may be prone to publication bias due to the fact that studies that report significant statistical results are published in favor of those that yield negative or null results.

Peer-reviewed literature is accessible via academic databases that enable users to execute searches across multiple journals. Here are a few examples: